County Fare: Vietnam veterans receive gift

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Local Vietnam Veterans of Chapter 65 gather almost daily at their small office space at 99 First St., Pittsfield. The tiny storefront is filled with Vietnam memorabilia. They have coffee, share war stories in support of one another, help veteran walk-ins with connecting to other services and guide them through understanding benefits, and direct them to the VA Hospital in Leeds.

In order to provide services to others, they need the internet and have been functioning with a very slow desktop computer that is more than 20 years old.

That changed on Patriot's Day.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston donated several laptops for distribution to eligible not-for-profits, and Berkshire Bridges, A Working Cities Initiative, received more than a dozen of those 3-year-old HP laptops.

Alisa Costa, Berkshire Bridges Initiative director, paid it forward to their backbone agency, Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity, who had received a call from VV Chapter 65, long before the laptops arrived. The chapter was in desperate need of a computer.

On Patriot's Day, Dawn Giftos, community outreach and development manager for Habitat, dropped in to visit the veterans with a donated laptop in hand.

When asked how the group fills their time at the Chapter office, Robert "Doc" Miller replied that a Navy Seal recently stopped in for a visit to share his story of his time in Vietnam, and told it for the first time after all these years. "Doc" said the man needed to unload, so to speak. The group also puts on parades, such as the Memorial and Veterans Day parades, and they decorate 8,500 local graves with flags each year.

Francis Tremblay, chairman of the Berkshire Veterans Coalition, sorrowfully shared the staggering number of 390 Vietnam Veterans pass away daily.

A symposium on Agent Orange was recently held in Pittsfield, said Larry Caprari, to educate the public and veterans who are still being diagnosed with this illness.

For more information on Veterans Services, contact the VVA James E. Callahan Berkshire Chapter 65 and the Berkshire Veterans Coalition, 413-443-1132.

AMERICAN LEGION HONORS EDUCATOR

A Sheffield teacher known for organizing inspirational student-led Veterans Day assemblies at Undermountain Elementary School is being honored by the American Legion Department of Massachusetts.

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The statewide veterans group has named Michelle Peters recipient of the 2018 "John Mulkern Educator of the Year Award." Peters will formally receive the award at the legion's annual convention in Plymouth on June 10.

The Sheffield American Legion Post 340 endorsed Peters' candidacy for the honor, citing the fifth and sixth grade teacher's ability to develop a sense of awareness and understanding among her students of how and why veterans have served their country.

According to the Sheffield American Legion, local veterans are invited to the annual Veterans Day assembly. The opening ceremony conducted by the fifth- and sixth-graders might include the reading of a poem and an introduction of those veterans present and on stage.

Each veteran gives a brief biography of themselves as it relates to their military service and how the experience impacted their lives. The assembly includes a question and answer period between the veterans and students regarding their job in the military.

Each student is also recognized if they have a veteran in their family or a relative currently serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard.

Legion officials say Peter's grandfather having served in the military during World War I is a source of pride reflected in the assemblies.

AARP SEEKS ANDRUS AWARD NOMINEES

AARP is accepting nominations for its 2018 Massachusetts Andrus Award for Community Service, which honors Bay State residents age 50-plus who are sharing their experience, talent and skills to enrich the lives of their community members.

"AARP Massachusetts is excited to shine a light on 50+ Commonwealth residents who are using what they've learned in life to make a difference in the lives around them," said Mike Festa, AARP Massachusetts state director.

Nominations will be evaluated by the Massachusetts state office based on how the volunteer's work has improved the community, supported AARP's vision and mission, and inspired other volunteers. The award recipient will be announced in early fall.

Nominees must be 50 years or older; the achievements, accomplishments, or service on which the nomination is based must have been performed on a volunteer basis, without pay; and the service must reflect AARP's vision and mission.

Couples or partners who perform service together are also eligible, however, teams are not eligible. This is not a posthumous award.

Contact AARP Massachusetts at 866-448-3621 for further information and a nomination form. The application deadline is June 1.


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