The efforts of two El Campo teens continues for the sixth year as donations are collected to help veterans in need.

The project is coordinated by siblings Taylor and Blair Watz, who began the project after visiting the Michael DeBakey Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital in Houston and seeing patients were in need.

“After having my Papa spend so much time receiving treatment at the VA, you begin to realize how many other people there don’t have everyday items such as toothbrushes, blankets or even socks,” Blair Watz said.

Along with their mother, Jackie, Blair and Taylor often accompanied their now late father and late grandfather to treatment at the VA Hospital.

While at the hospital, the Watzes learned some veterans treated there are homeless or unable to pay for a place to stay while receiving treatment.

“Every time I went there, I noted how sad it was that the people who fought for our freedom had barely any of the necessities they need to live,” Taylor Watz said.

The Watzes, along with students at St. Philip Catholic School and members of El Campo’s FFA and 4-H chapters, gathered items the family will later bring to the hospital.

Veterans who received the donations in past years were grateful for the contributions, Taylor said.

“The veterans that receive our donations are speechless,” Taylor said. “I personally walked around the entire cancer floor and handed blankets to each veteran. I saw many tears and received many hugs.”

Needed products this year include toothbrushes and paste, chapstick, blankets, spray deodorant, shaving cream, baby powder, lotion, socks, combs and brushes, nail clippers, underwear, non-alcohol mouthwash, bath and body products and men’s T-shirts (size small to 2XL).

In previous years, 1,800 donations were collected by the family. This year, more than 5,500 items have been received.

“It doesn’t cost anything, but a little time,” Jackie Watz said. “Our children love to give back, make a difference, be thankful and humble.”

Blair is currently a sophomore at Texas A&M University, Taylor is a junior at El Campo High School, and Jackie runs Watz farms in El Campo.

“As my Dad said, ‘I gave my entire body to this country,’” Jackie said. “If it weren’t for the veterans, we wouldn’t have the freedom we have today. We owe our respect and time to each and every one of them.”

Last-minute donations can still be dropped off this week to the El Campo Leader-News, 203 E. Jackson, or The Shed, 1004 West Loop.

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