Left to right: At Massapequa Park Village hall, VFW Post...

Left to right: At Massapequa Park Village hall, VFW Post 7763, Massapequa Park members Joe Mulligan, Harvey Baldwin, Bill Colfer, and Pasquale Dimonda pack gift kits to be given to patients at the Northport VA hospital. (March 28, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Karen Wiles Stabile

Post Office Box 394 has been the collection point for donations to Massapequa Cares for most of the group's 25-year history.

Facing a drop in donations and volunteers, the organization that aids local veterans -- and its Massapequa post office box -- may close.

The mailbox rental is Massapequa Cares' only operating expense, chairman Bill Colfer said. "It's $120 a year. That's it. That's our overhead," he said.

Other expenses stem from the annual Massapequa Cares Day, when Colfer and about 50 volunteers visit the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center to deliver care packages and put on a USO-style show for veterans. This year's event will be held Saturday.

Despite extreme economizing and a volunteer labor force, the group has been running on reserve funds, said Colfer, 65, of Massapequa Park, an Army veteran of the Vietnam War. Donations have dried up, he said.

Massapequa Cares averaged about $6,000 in donations a year, but will have less than $2,000 on hand after Saturday's event, Colfer said.

"And I still have to buy coffee for them," said Colfer, who regularly delivers bulk packages of decaffeinated ground coffee to the hospital.

Colfer and other volunteers worked this week at Massapequa Park Village Hall to assemble about 150 packages containing sweatshirts, bathrobes, socks, playing cards and other goods. The group spends about $5,800 on the event, he said.

"It makes them [veterans] feel good," he said. "Most of these guys don't have family."

Hospital spokesman Joe Sledge called Massapequa Cares Day "one of the signature events of the year."

Colfer said the group's efforts have been financed through the years with coins from the Sunrise Mall fountains, fundraising drives by Girl Scouts and other donations.

Richard Begandy, commander of the Massapequa Park Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7763, which raises funds for Massapequa Cares, said the group plays an integral role in veterans' affairs. "It shows vets, especially those in the hospital, that they are not forgotten," said Begandy, 76.

The possible end of the group saddens him, Begandy said. "I just can't imagine that we have to stop doing this."

Massapequa Cares was founded by former Massapequa Park Mayor George Nussbaum and veteran Tom Banks, both of whom have died.

If Massapequa Cares does end, current Mayor James Altadonna Jr. said he hopes it's possible to revive the program sometime in the future.

"This would be a sad chapter in the history of Massapequa Park if we were not able to continue this tradition," he said.

The post office box is rented through next March and every donation mailed there will somehow benefit veterans, Colfer said, adding: "I'll hang on as long as I can."

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