Original article published here, by Stephen Landry of The Gardner News.
GARDNER – Needy veterans throughout the region will be warmer this winter thanks to the generosity and warmth of spirit of members from three American Legion posts.
Representatives from the E.H. Phillips American Legion Post 102 in Athol donated dozens of winter coats Wednesday to the Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center.
MVOC Executive Director Stephanie Marchetti said the donation came about a few weeks ago after she had casually mentioned to Scott Hume, service director of Post 102, that her organization was in the middle of a winter coat drive.
“We had happened to meet at another veterans event, and we’d never met before, and within a couple of days (Scott) had called and said he wanted to help,” Marchetti explained. “I just mentioned we had a need (for winter clothing) and here we have dozens of jackets.”
Post 102 Commander Peter Newman said giving back to the community is one of the most important things the American Legion could do – both for veterans and non-veterans – throughout the year.
“This is what it’s all about,” Newman said.
Legion officials had put out the call for warm winter clothing on various social media accounts, and the response was immediate, he said.
“This is what you get. It was a great response,” he said.
Shawn Kerwin, food pantry manager at MVOC, said he was touched by the outpouring of support.
“It’s amazing how many guys come in looking for a coat – sometimes we give away 20 a day,” Kerwin said. “Some of the veterans don’t even own a winter coat, so this is a really good thing. All of these coats will be used.”
Marchetti said the coats would be available to anyone who might need one.
“We will prioritize them for our veterans, but ultimately we just want folks who need them to have them,” she said. “If there are other folks in the city or community who need them, and we have them, we’ll provide them.”
Marchetti said MVOC was also in touch with other local organizations to track the need.
“This morning, I had a woman from the Gardner Emergency Housing Mission come by because she had a homeless couple who needed some clothes, so we gave them a couple of jackets and gloves and scarves. They weren’t veterans but they are cold and it’s winter so we helped them out,” Marchetti said. “And I know if we needed something from (GEHM), we’d give them a call too. I think ultimately the goal is to just help people who need it, and if we all know each other that means we can source it out to the right place.”