NORTHBOROUGH – The Vincent F. Picard American Legion Post 234 in Northborough has been hosting Veteran’s Coffee Hours with a different speaker presenting each month since late last year.
For organizers, the program serves an important purpose, fostering connection and a space for education for a community of local veterans.
“It’s nice to meet other people your age and talk about things,” Post 234 Commander Rick Currier recently told the Community Advocate.
Program caters to older veterans
The events are organized in partnership with Easterseals, a national non-profit focused on disability services.
The events take place on the third Wednesday of each month. They are free and open to all veterans, focusing on topics that are particularly relevant to older veterans.
“We look at the senior audience and really try to cater to that,” said Easterseals Manager of Veteran Programming Adam Costello, who runs and supports the coffee hours.
Costello said that the older veteran population has a need and interest to learn about topics like accessing health care through Medicare and Department of Veterans Affairs health care services, as well as instruction on newer forms of technology.
April’s presentation, from Firestorm Dynamics, focused on online security and passwords. A previous presentation featured Katie Hanna, a representative for NEADS World Class Service Dogs, who shared information on hearing service dogs.
As part of the coffee hours, Chromebooks were also distributed to veterans, while Honor Guard Stan Corbett gave training on how to use them.
Coffee house part of larger programming docket
The coffee hours also serve as a function where veterans can meet and talk with others who have relatable backgrounds and military experience.
Currier said that Costello had initially approached him with the idea of the coffee hours five or six months ago, adding that he had completely supported the idea. While Costello expected to have five or six people attend, they quickly garnered a much larger response.
Costello said that response to the coffee hours has been very positive, in part because of the collaboration between different organizations like the Dow Jones Foundation, which provided books for the events, and CVS, which pays for coffee and donuts.
Costello added that they organize events like hikes, obstacle courses and weight lifting on weekends or weekday nights with a younger, post-9/11 military audience in mind. Other events, including programs for breast cancer awareness, are planned with participation of women veterans in mind.
Organizers seek to build consolidated information source
Costello added that he wants to create a compact information source for resources available to veterans in Massachusetts on the Massveteran.com website. Costello said that, while there are a number of resources and organizations available to veterans returning from service, many of them have vague descriptions. Some veterans might try to find the resources they need from specific organizations without realizing that they are not eligible or are looking in the wrong place.
“You usually only do that a couple of times before you say ‘Oh, there’s nothing out there for me,’” Costello said.
With Massveteran.com, Costello wants to present the organizations and services available to veterans so that they, as a result, can search for and find the resources they need.
Veteran looks to support fellow veterans
Costello said he was inspired to do this work by his experiences returning after serving in Iraq. He said that, when he was trying to find resources and organizations, many talked to him as if he was a victim of something. Despite his military record, however, he did not qualify for many of the services, and he recalled being told at one veterans organization that he had not “lost everything yet.”
“It wasn’t until the suicides started happening with the people I served with that I started wondering what’s going on,” Costello said.
Costello said that he realized that there is something is harmful in the transition process from military to civilian life, adding that he wanted to consolidate options so that veterans can find help or resources before their situation deteriorates.
“We want to grow this because it needs to be grown,” Costello said.