From the Gardner News: From warm coats to walkabouts, Great Gardner to honor its veterans

Original article published here, by Stephen Landry of The Gardner News.

GARDNER- Store discount, free winter coats and sponsored hikes are just some of the ways the Greater Gardner area is honoring local veterans this Veterans Day.

“I think a lot of organizations have really come together in the Gardner area this year for Veterans Day, which is great after last year when a lot of things were probably canceled,” said Stephanie Marchetti, executive director of the Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center. “Some of that is a testament to the clear dedication in the community to veterans, and some of it is the result of some of the newer connections MVOC has made in the past few months.”

The Massachusetts Women Veterans’ Network will kick off its 16th annual conference with a “self-care” event at Dunn State Park on Nov. 13. More than 100 women from across the state are expected to attend the event, which will include hiking, yoga, vendors and other activities, according to organizers.

“I’m excited because this is our first time doing an outdoor wellness event with our annual conference,” said Marydith Tuitt, a member of the Women Veterans’ Network Steering Committee. “Dunn State Park was selected in part because it has hiking trails that are conducive to disabled hikers. Our theme this year is ‘wellness,’ not just mental wellness but physical wellness, so being able to be in an outdoor setting where we can truly enjoy the open air and gather together made Dunn State Park a perfect spot.”

The event will kick off a four-day, virtual conference that will include topics such as meditation, personal finance tips and a writing workshop. Anyone interested in finding out more should visit www.womenveteransnetworkmass.org/.

The Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center is partnering with the North County Land Trust for a veterans walkabout event at the Rome Conservation Area on Nov. 10.

“It’s about a two-mile hike, so it’s a little bit longer (than our other hikes), and it’s fairly flat and level terrain, but it winds through some very interesting woodlands and stream crossings and things like that,” said Anna Wilkins, executive director of the North County Land Trust. “It’s a great hike for people who want a nice, long walk in the woods. There’s no agenda other than to chat and have a nice walk, have a good time, and just be around folks and meet some new people.”

The walk will begin at 1 p.m. with a meet point at 69 Brookside Drive. All veterans in attendance will receive a free MVOC hat.

The Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center will be giving out free winter coats to veterans at their pantry in their headquarters building at 268 Central St. between 9 a.m. and noon on Nov. 12. MVOC has long provided donated coats to veterans upon request, but organizers decided this year to include a one-day event as part of the tradition.

“We just wanted to have one day where everybody could come in to get what they need, so that we weren’t just catching folks that came to us, but we were opening it to anybody who might be afraid to ask or have too much pride to ask,” Marchetti said, adding that there is a definite need among local veterans for warm winter clothing. “We have seen an increase in people who need help this year, especially in families. I think that’s maybe because a lot of folks are returning home from deployment.”

Marchetti said MVOC officials have collected about 80 donated coats to hand out this year. But she said nobody will need to worry if the supply runs out.

“If for some reason we run out, I will take people’s contact info and size, and we will get them a jacket,” she said.

Officials at Ocean State Job Lot have announced the return of their “Buy, Give, Get” program to benefit local veterans in need, in addition to their traditional Military and Veteran Deal Day campaign.

The Buy, Give, Get event, which began last month, invites customers to purchase a warm winter coat for $40 and then give it back to the store as a donation to a veteran in need. In return, the customer will receive a $40 Crazy Deal gift card to be used for a future purchase online or at any Ocean State Job Lot location.

Officials said the program has provided more than 10,000 winter coats for veterans over the past five years, and that approximately 50,000 winter coats will be available for purchase this season.

“What started out as a 600-coat test has developed into one of the largest programs of its kind serving veterans in need across the region,” said David Sarlitto, executive director of the Ocean State Job Lot Charitable Foundation. “Last year, our customers helped us to donate warm winter coats to over 40,000 veterans through our partner organizations across the Northeast, and we hope to keep even more veterans in need warm this winter.”

The company will also hold its annual Military and Veteran Deal Days promotion through Nov. 10. During the promotion, all military personnel, veterans and their immediate family members and dependents will receive a Crazy Deal gift card equal to 40 percent of their purchase of $20 or more, or a $40 gift card with a purchase of $100 or more.