By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Marlborough – For the fourth year in a row, Sweats for Vets made the holidays warmer and happier for local homeless veterans.Started four years ago by Marlborough resident Mark Vital, the nonprofit organization has a simple mission – to give the veterans a gift of a sweatshirt featuring the name and/or logo a Boston sports team as well as warm hats, gloves and socks. Vital, himself a veteran, is currently a teacher at the Advanced Math and Science Academy Charter School (AMSA) in Marlborough. As such, he has obtained the support of the school’s students, families and administration in his quest to collect donations. Other community members made donations at designated collection spots throughout the region.
Vital noted that the organization has been able to expand its donations each of the four years in operation. Originally it supported the Veterans Inc., veterans’ homeless shelter in Worcester for the first two years. In 2013, it expanded its support to the New England Center for Homeless Veterans in Boston.
“We went to Boston with almost 200 sweatshirts [in 2013], and we didn’t have enough,” he recalled. “At their Christmas luncheon, they feed close to 300 homeless veterans.”
For the 2014 distribution, Sweats for Vets started soliciting for donations in September, he said, and continued their efforts right up until Christmas. The group collected just short of 600 sweatshirts and was able to offer donations to five different shelters across New England.
“Every homeless veteran at the Vets Inc., shelter in Worcester; the New England Center for Homeless Veterans in Boston; the Veterans’ Homestead in Fitchburg; the Veterans’ Transition House in New Bedford; and the Operation Stand Down shelter in Providence, R.I., received either a Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins or Celtics sweatshirt,” he said.
“We were very fortunate this year to accept contributions from our regular supporters who have given over the years,” he added. “However, this year we also received new donations from pubs, liquor stores, fitness groups, schools, churches, veteran organizations and most importantly, the individual contributor.”
Vital noted that he believes that there are presently around 750 homeless veterans in New England and hopes, with continued growth next year, “every one of them will be a little bit warmer thanks to Sweats for Vets.”