By Joan F. Simoneau, Community Reporter
Marlborough – More than 20 years ago, Marlborough resident Julie Ciolino, a volunteer at a local nursing home, met a Vietnam veteran who had served his country. Upon his return home, he was unable to resume his life, couldn’t cope with the change and eventually moved into a nursing home.
“This was one of the most influential days of my life,” she said.
As she continued to work with veterans and observed the difficulties many were experiencing, she continued to write letters of support and sending care packages. In 2014 she started the Imagine Project, Inc., a nonprofit organization committed to helping veterans in need and honoring all those who had served the country. There are four core programs – recreation, moving into new homes, community awareness, and program support.
Prior to starting the project, Ciolino met many who influenced her continuing interest.
“I was able to meet an incredible father and son – veterans of the Korean and Gulf wars. It took us a while to get to know them. They were quiet and kept to themselves,” she said. “When they finally opened up, we quickly became friends. This pair was the catalyst in the founding of the Imagine Project. After living together at a homeless shelter for over a year, they finally moved into their own apartment. We were so happy for them, but then learned that they did not have beds, to sleep on, no pillows, etc. With the help of a generous donor, we quickly got beds, blankets, pillows and sheets.”
One of their major support groups is the Marlborough Junior Woman’s Club that has been with them for many years.
“They are the first to jump in and help with whatever we need, whether it is collecting books for the local shelter and homebound veterans, creating gift bags for Mother’s Day for our female veterans, or collecting socks and underwear,” said Ciolino. “We would not be able to support our veterans like we do without their incredible support.”
The Imagine Project has also received a generous amount of support from the Knights of Columbus of Marlborough and students at the Immaculate Conception School. The volunteer team has been working on a shoestring budget, managing the nonprofit between full-time jobs and raising a family, and the requests for support continue to increase.
“We need help in managing collection programs and for a fundraising event we would like to hold this fall,” said Ciolino. “We need dedicated volunteers that are willing to work and get their hands dirty to help us move these events forward. I think it is important for society to recognize what our veterans have done for this nation. We need to do so much more for them. It’s our time to take care of them.”
For more information, visit theimagineprojectinc.org or contact Ciolino at [email protected].