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Good Neighbors: WNY family with Christmas Jeep collects donations for local veterans

The Wascak family of Depew has used their SUV decked out in holiday decorations to raise money and collect food to help charities like WNY Heroes.

LANCASTER, N.Y. — It was by accident last fall that the "Holiday Jeep" came to be. When Jonathan Wascak of Depew couldn't fit the decorations he purchased from a friend in his Jeep, he strapped them on the roof rack. 

"As we were driving home people were taking photos and waving and cheering," Wascak said.

So he decided to add more décor like wreaths, tinsel, signs, stuffed animals, and lawn decorations. Now everywhere the Wascaks drive, they're spreading holiday cheer.

"We're like a one family, one vehicle parade at this point," he said. "We started to get a little notoriety I guess and I said I wanted to do something more."

They used their holiday Jeep last year to first deliver coffee and donuts, many of which were donated by Tim Hortons, to local hospital workers. 

"I'm a nurse and I know the people in the hospitals especially in the beginning (of the pandemic) were really terrified so we just wanted to lighten the mood and bring a little something for them," said Wascak, who is a travelling nurse at Olean General Hospital.

Then they used their holiday Jeep to host an inaugural donation drive.

"We did like 250 bags worth of stuff and $600 raised for Hearts for the Homeless," he said.

This past weekend, just days before Veteran's Day, the Wascak family held their second annual donation drive for WNY Heroes, Inc. They say it's the least they can do to help local veterans who have sacrificed so much and now find themselves struggling.

"It's hard to see them going through that after what they've done to serve this country and the people in it," said Wascak.

In all the Wascaks collected 50 bags of paper products and food, 100 gift cards, and more than $1,500 to give to WNY Heroes. Of that, $1,000 was donated by West Herr Auto Group after seeing the story first air on Channel 2 News.

Every other Sunday WNY Heroes distributes food to local veterans. The need is staggering.

"We're upwards of 1,800 veterans now (who receive food donations). To see the community now wanting to get behind and help us help more veterans? That in itself should say it's a great community. Every little bit helps," said Chris Krieger, founder of WNY Heroes.

The Wascaks say they are grateful for the community support and pleased that they could turn their love of the holidays into a tangible effort to help others. By the way, if you happen to see a Jeep driving around WNY decked out in Independence Day or Halloween décor, that is likely the Wascak family as well!

See the Wascak family Holiday Jeep's Facebook page here.

To learn more about WNY Heroes, click here for the website, or click here for the Facebook page.

To nominate a "Good Neighbor" to be featured on Channel 2 News, email details to Melissa.Holmes@wgrz.com . See past "Good Neighbors" by clicking the links below.