By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Marlborough/Hudson – Since founding Sweats for Vets in 2011 to give Boston sports team sweatshirts as holiday gifts to homeless veterans, Mark Vital of Marlborough has been able to further expand the nonprofit organization each year. In 2018, Sweats for Vets delivered 1,610 new sweatshirts to veterans at 68 locations including homeless shelters and transitional housing programs throughout the six New England states as well as New York.
While donors are nationwide, Vital has observed two local communities consistently offering the most support.
“Ninety percent of donations come from organizations, businesses and individuals from Marlborough and Hudson,” he noted. “Basically, people from Marlborough and Hudson are keeping almost all of the homeless veterans in New England warm this winter.”
An Army veteran, Vital is a teacher, track coach and community outreach manager at Advanced Math and Science Academy (AMSA) in Marlborough. Sweats for Vets began in 2011 through his efforts with AMSA students and parents. Along with sweatshirts, students still collect winter hats, gloves and socks for the cause.
Organizations began offering support the following year with help from the late Bob Page. In addition to serving as a city councilor, Page was an Army veteran who led several organizations including the Marlborough Veterans Council. He passed away in 2015.
“Bob helped me connect with local veteran organizations,” Vital explained. “He actually helped me distribute sweats for a couple years.”
Among supportive organizations for multiple years are Marlborough’s American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association Chapter 105, Marlborough American Legion Post 132, Hudson AMVETS Post 208 and its Ladies Auxiliary, Marlborough-based Disabled American Veterans Chapter 82, Marlborough Eagles Aerie 3565, The Marlborough Foundation Inc., Highland City Striders (Hudson-Marlborough area), Marlborough Moose Family Center 1129, Marlborough Rotary Club and Marlborough Sons of Italy Lodge 240.
Many of the sweatshirts are gift-wrapped by Scout troops from Hudson and Marlborough.
Since 2012, Sweats for Vets has received assistance from Liz and Matthew Finnegan, owners of Finnegan’s Pub in Hudson. They annually organize a fundraising golf tournament followed by dinner and a silent auction each fall, and a NASCAR event each winter.
“Last year, Finnegan’s gave me 300 sweatshirts – all wrapped,” Vital relayed. “They have wrapping parties with their customers. People love that 100 percent of what they donate goes directly to the vets.”
On Nov. 12, the Marlborough Regional Chamber of Commerce, along with the MetroWest and Worcester chambers, honored veterans with an event at the Collings Foundation’s American Heritage Museum, 568 Main St. in Hudson. A portion of the proceeds was donated to Sweats for Vets.
Also committed to helping Sweats for Vets this year, according to Vital, are Hudson Eagles Aerie 643, Marlborough Junior Woman’s Club and Marlborough Lions Club.
“I’m so appreciative and humbled by the generosity of Hudson and Marlborough for giving year after year to homeless vets,” Vital said. “It warms my heart to know that I live in a community like this.”
Sweatshirts can be dropped off at five locations: AMSA, 201 Forest St., Marlborough; Finnegan’s Pub, 25 South St., Hudson; Marlborough American Legion Post 132, 88 Maple St.; Welly’s Restaurant, 153 Main St, Marlborough; and Julio’s Liquors, 140 Turnpike Rd, Westborough.
To arrange having donations picked up, contact Vital at [email protected] or 508-494-9410. Monetary donations can be made online at sweats4vets.com. Follow Sweats for Vets on Facebook at facebook.com/Sweats4Vets.