Life Scout and @StIgnatius sophomore Matthew Mariani was honored at the Feb. 27 Board of Supervisors meeting for his #EagleScout project providing 168 backpacks to #veterans in need. @SMCHSA @boyscouts @aleman_norman @OLA_Burlingame @DeptVetAffairsSee below for a story about Matt that will appear in the spring Genesis magazine.
Matt Mariani '20 organized his parish to fill 168 backpacks with supplies for homeless vets in large part because of his grandfather.
"He served in the Korean War, and I developed a special connection to the armed forces thanks to him."
The experience of helping vets reinforced his belief that "homeless veterans aren't people you should avoid. Some may suffer from addictions or other mental health issues. Some just have financial problems. For the most part, they need help once they leave the military, and these backpacks might give them a boost getting back on their feet."
The project began when Mariani's scout leader and Our Lady of Angels pastor Fr. Michael Mahoney, both asked Mariani to continue and grow the parish's Lenten outreach project by fundraising during Veterans' Day weekend at all Masses to find agencies that could use the backpacks.
They also asked him to organize the packing event, one that would involve many parishioners, as well as the Archbishop. The project will count for his Eagle Scout badge, which he hopes to receive in May.
On Dec. 10, 250 parishioners came to stuff backpacks, and they were joined by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who stuffed a backpack on his own. Two days later, Mariani and his parents drove a rented U-Haul van to the Palo Alto Veterans Hospital and to the Veterans Branch of San Mateo Human Services to distribute backpacks that contained toiletries, clothing, food, flashlights and $25 Safeway gift cards.
"The agencies were grateful for the backpacks," said Mariani, who earned praise in the press and from politicians for his generosity and vision. He received a commendation from San Mateo County Supervisor Warren Slocum Feb. 27 at the board's monthly meeting.
To complete his project, Mariani faced two challenges. He ordered many of his supplies from the Dollar Store, which inadvertently cancelled his order. "They had to reorder everything close to Christmas, and we were worried that the items wouldn't come by our scheduled packing day."
Luckily, the items did come in time. When 250 parishioners showed up, Mariani found himself "having to be a lot of places at once during a very hectic day."
Mariani, still a sophomore at SI, plans to study computer science in college and work as a software engineer.