Red Cross awards local heroes

| 30 Sep 2011 | 09:50

WEST MILFORD — The American Red Cross held its 13th Annual Heroes Breakfast on Friday, June 17. This year’s recipients were Rich Dygos and Frank Yevchak, both from Macopin Middle School in West Milford. The two were nominated by Principal Mary Reinhold for their work in assisting troops overseas. Dygos founded Operation Thank You at Macopin Middle School in West Milford in 2003. The program’s mission is to support troops by writing letters and sending care packages. The program is supported through donations from Macopin Middle School students, faculty, and West Milford residents under the guidance of Dygos. Donated items include snacks, toiletries, food, sports equipment and anything else that can help put a smile of the faces of these dedicated military men and women. Dygos also works with the Language Arts Department from his school and other surrounding districts to solicit their participation in a letter-writing program for the soldiers. According to Dygos, this helps students learn about the meaning of citizenship, volunteerism and the sacrifices soldiers make. The supplies and letters are boxed and shipped to local and non-local area military men and women. “Over 500 care packages have been shipped thus far,” said Mayor Bettina Bieri. “Troops have sent back many letters and signed items thanking the program and letting Mr. Dygos know that the care package contents and personal messages from the students mean so much to them. Students, teachers, and community members working and volunteering their time and effort to help support our great armed services is a terrific and positive experience for all involved.” Two years ago, Macopin School’s security officer Frank Yevchak decided that he wanted to do more for the troops stationed overseas, whether they were four-legged or two-legged. He developed the idea of helping the canine soldiers and started his organization Support Our 4 Legged Soldiers. Since K9’s were known as the “forgotten soldiers” by many, his idea was to raise awareness of the value of the military dogs and assist the Military Working Dog Teams wherever possible. Although the military does supply these dog teams with the necessities to do their job, many non-combat related items were not readily available for the handlers and dogs overseas. Mr. Yevchak works with the students and the general public to get care packages out every week to both the human and canine soldiers. The care packages include everything from dog brushes, toys and kennel equipment to health and hygiene items and treats for both the handlers and dogs, along with hundreds of thank you cards and letters from around the country. Bieri thanked the American Red Cross for their efforts in helping people during emergencies and also said thanks to Unilever for sponsoring the ceremony. “On behalf of the American Red Cross, the Macopin School and the community of West Milford, we congratulate both Richard and Frank for their tireless and continued support for all who serve us so well overseas,” said Bieri.