LAWRENCE (Mercer) — The Knights of Columbus Trenton Federation are well on their way to sending hundreds of junior enlisted service personnel home for the holidays, a campaign that had modest beginnings seven years ago but is now a months-long annual effort.

There is still time to donate to the "Send a Hero Home" program, applicable to anyone with a rank up to E3 stationed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.

Lou Peoples of K of C Council 7000 said the intention has always been to keep this a local, Jersey-focused fundraiser but it has gotten popular enough that people sometimes contact the Knights with an eye toward expanding their reach.

"Unfortunately, we get those requests every year," Peoples said. "People will call and want to request bringing a kid home, but the problem is he's not stationed at Fort Dix."

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In 2013, the first year of "Send a Hero Home," the K of C provided transportation home for about a dozen service members.

That number steadily increased to 225 by last year, and even with the inherent challenges brought on by COVID-19, Peoples said more than 160 applications have already come in for the end of this year.

Transportation costs, thankfully, seem to be lower across the board due to the virus, but normally the average round-trip ticket is $500.

"Of course there are people who are not going to go home because they've got ill parents or whatever, but the ones that want to go home and can go home, we take care of their transportation," he said.

The U.S. military requires that those who do request leave first test negative for the coronavirus, according to Peoples.

He said despite not being able to hold public fundraisers with the frequency of previous years, the Knights have been getting checks in the mail. You can send one too, or PayPal the organization.

Peoples estimated that this particular branch of the Knights of Columbus have provided trips home for about 500 service members over the course of eight years.

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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