LIGHTS, CAMERA, RESCUE AT MVOC!

GARDNER, MA- On Thursday July 20th cameras began rolling at Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center (MVOC) when NBC’s George Oliphant and the “George to the Rescue” crew arrived to begin shooting an episode of the show’s 15th season. George and his crew will be “rescuing” MVOC’s food and clothing pantry for an episode of the show to air this November.

For over 40 years MVOC has provided housing and support services to veterans and veteran families throughout North Central Massachusetts. The pantry itself offers not just food and clothing, but household goods, hygiene items, books, and more operating solely on donations and local partnerships. The pantry is located in the basement of MVOC’s Central Street Gardner location and the show will be performing a much needed top to bottom renovation of the space, working with local interior design team Jane Barnes Interiors to get the work done.

“While our pantry works hard to serve veterans and their families, the space itself is long overdue for an update. We are beyond excited for this opportunity and can’t wait to see the surprises in store for us! We won’t see what the space looks like until it’s finished and revealed, but the renovations done in previous episodes of the show are always amazing and such high quality.” said Executive Director Dr. Stephanie Marchetti.

MVOC Executive Director Stephanie Marchetti, George to the Rescue Host George Oliphant, and MVOC Founder Cathy McWilliams

Founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors Cathy Stallings McWilliams shared “I am not only extremely grateful, but tremendously excited that George to the Rescue has chosen MVOC as its next project! Providing much needed free of charge renovations to our food and clothing pantry will not only be wonderful for our dedicated employees and volunteers who work so hard providing these necessary services to our clients, but will offer a comfortable, updated and relaxed atmosphere for our Veterans and their families who utilize these services.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart to George and his crew for not only choosing MVOC to provide these amazing remodeling updates, but for also bringing MVOC and its’ mission to our Veterans into the national spotlight!”

A temporary pantry has been set up in another area of headquarters so that the film and contractor crews could have full access to the space for the approximately 8-week long renovation. Electricians, flooring crews, painters, artists, and more have all donated their time and resources to make this project amazing for the veterans of North Central Massachusetts.

MVOC Receives VA Suicide Prevention Grant

Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center receives VA suicide prevention grant
Grant supports local suicide prevention efforts for Veterans and their families

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is continuing its mission of preventing Veteran suicide by working with community-based organizations across the country, including Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center.

Through the Staff Sergeant Parker Gordon Fox Suicide Prevention Grant Program (SSG Fox SPGP), MVOC received just over $365,000 from VA to support its efforts helping local Veterans.

The SSG Fox SPGP is a three-year program that provides funding to community-based organizations with innovative approaches to preventing Veteran suicide. With its SSG Fox SPGP award, MVOC plans to enhance mental health and wellness efforts for Veterans in North Central Massachusetts area.

“Suicide prevention for our veterans is of vital importance,” said Stephanie Marchetti, Executive Director. “It’s not just about statistics or headlines—it’s about saving lives and offering hope. The MVOC has a demonstrated history of working with high risk veterans and via this grant we will be able to expand our counseling team, offer more reintegration activities for veterans (like fishing classes and sporting events), provide additional financial assistance grants, host peer to peer groups, and more. While the MVOC has been focused on supporting veterans for over 40 years, particularly those struggling with mental health, this grant ensures the continue of these efforts.”

For more information about MVOC, visit veterans-outreach.org. For more information about the SSG Fox SPGP, visit MentalHealth.VA.gov/ssgfox-grants.

If you’re a Veteran in crisis or concerned about one, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive 24/7, confidential support. You don’t have to be enrolled in VA benefits or health care to connect. To reach responders, Dial 988 then Press 1, or text 838255.

5th Annual Jesse H. Stallings Speaker Series hosts Veteran Blair Morin

GARDNER, MA- On Sunday August 27, 2023 Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center hosted its’ 5th Annual Jesse H. Stallings Speaker Series at Monument Park in Gardner, MA. Expanding off the success of last year’s event, this year featured live music from Kali Stoddard-Imari of RallySound and a discussion on veteran PTSD and mental health care from US Air Force Veteran Blair Morin. The event also hosted folks from the Montachusett Suicide Prevention Task Force and Clear Path For Veterans, as well as Mayor Mike Nicholson and State Representative Jon Zlotnik.Despite the rain, about 60 attendees gathered for music, conversation, and refreshments. Kali Stoddard-Imari moved his set to the back of the stage so folks could join him under the covering and the remainder happily huddled under pop up tents elsewhere in the park. After the musical set, Blair discussed his time as a medic in the Air Force, the mental health struggles he faced upon return, and continues to face today. His speech encouraged veterans to talk to each other and professionals and get help if they need it, emphasizing that 22 veterans a day already lose their lives to suicide and it’s only together that we can decrease that statistic.

Said Executive Director Dr. Stephanie Marchetti, “it is a privilege each year to organize this event, to honor Jesse Stallings’ memory and our founder Cathy McWilliams’ dedication to veteran suicide and homelessness prevention, as well as to provide a stigma-breaking opportunity for our veterans. As any veteran I’ve talked to has heard me say a million times- please come in and see us if you need help, and even if you don’t need help come in and visit us anyway. We are here for you and we want you here.”

The MVOC is grateful for the support of many sponsors for this event, to include: Fidelity Bank, Commodore Builders, ELM Electrical, Piper Electric, Rollstone Bank & Trust, Mount Wachusett Community College, Fitchburg State University, Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center, Wachusett Mountain Association, Padgett Business Services, Rally Sound, and Polar Beverages.

The MVOC offers veterans throughout central Massachusetts housing, mental health counseling, financial assistance grants, benefits resource guidance, a food and clothing pantry, and more. The organization is headquartered at 268 Central Street in Gardner.

 

MVOC Hosts Annual July BBQ for Staff and Residents

On Friday July 7th MVOC hosted it’s annual parking lot BBQ, with attendees including MVOC residents and staff, community partners, and veterans within the region.

MVOC’s President and Founder Cathy Stallings-McWilliams with Navy Veteran Scott

Pictured left to right: MVOC Board Clerk Brad Heglin, MVOC President and Founder Cathy McWilliams, State Representative Jon Zlotnik, Gardner Mayor Mike Nicholson, MVOC Executive Director Stephanie Marchetti, Gardner City Council President Lizzy Kazinskas, and Gardner Councilor at Large George Tyros

 

Attendees enjoyed free BBQ, outdoor games, and music for the afternoon.

MVOC’s Executive Director Named Commonwealth Heroine


Dr. Stephanie Marchetti, Executive Director of MVOC, was recognized for effort to help veterans within the region on Friday June 23rd. The Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women inducted Marchetti into the Class of 2023 Commonwealth Heroines at the nomination of State Representative Jon Zlotnik. This designation is awarded to women who have made outstanding contributions to their organizations and communities.

“The Commonwealth Heroines are women who don’t make the news, but make all the difference in their communities,” said MCSW Chairwoman Dr. Sarah Glenn-Smith. “Thousands of women in every community across the Commonwealth perform unheralded acts on a daily basis that make our homes, neighborhoods, cities, and towns better places to live.”

Said Marchetti, “I fully recognize that I am successful because of the support of the MVOC staff, board, and partners at other area non-profits,” she said. “Everyone involved in this organization works so hard to provide services and opportunities for our veterans, and I’m grateful to be part of such meaningful work.”

To read more, head over to the full article on The Gardner News.

 

Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center Awarded Nearly $20m to Build Affordable Housing in Winchendon

On Thursday May 18, 2023 the Healey-Driscoll Administration announced $246m in funding to support 27 housing projects throughout the state, among which MVOC was a recipient.

WINCHENDON- The Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center has been hard at work for nearly 4 years preparing to redevelop the former Streeter and Poland Elementary Schools into 44 units of low-income apartments for homeless and high-risk veterans. On Thursday May 18th it was announced that the organization would receive nearly $20m via a mixture of state and federal resources to advance this project forward. This award comes from the state’s “One Stop” program, which was created several years ago to allow organizations to apply for many state grants at once. These funds were appropriated by the legislature as part of the state’s broader effort to address the housing shortage across the Commonwealth, which the new Healey-Driscoll administration has made a top priority. This large award, coupled with a $2m award secured by Representative Jon Zlotnik in the Economic Development Bill and several other state and private awards, give the project the funding it needs to move forward.

The MVOC has partnered with Anser Advisory and Barbara Sokoloff & Associates to assist in securing funding and plans, Jones Whittsett Architects for design, and veteran-led Commodore builders to support construction. The property was obtained by MVOC from the town of Winchendon following a competitive RFP process several years ago.

“This is unbelievably exciting news for MVOC,” stated Executive Director Dr. Stephanie Marchetti, “there is a huge need for affordable housing throughout the state and we are excited to be able to be a part of the solution to that issue, and appreciative to the town of Winchendon for providing us the opportunity to expand within their community. We feel very fortunate to have received the support of many town officials and community members and are looking forward to breaking ground later this year.”

The Streeter and Poland re-development project is an adaptive re-use and new construction project that will transform the two vacant school buildings into one combined affordable housing complex for veterans. The interior space will also include a meeting room, a clinic space, staff offices, and more. Throughout the exterior of this 3.8 acre site there will be 22 parking spaces, a courtyard, and recreational spaces. Once completed, there will be 44 total units designed for veterans to age in place with at least 16 reserved for veterans earning less than 30 percent of AMI.

Said Representative Jon Zlotnik “I’m proud to have been part of this years long effort to secure funding for this project. MVOC and Dr. Marchetti have a proven track record providing top notch support for our veterans. I’m glad the state is able to make this important investment in our community. This means a lot for Winchendon, MVOC, and it will mean even more for those vets who are able to live there.

Undersecretary Maddox shared “affordable housing supports our most vulnerable residents, but it also enriches and stabilizes communities, ensures our communities are diverse, inclusive, and provides strong foundations for all our families to thrive.”

The Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center has been providing housing and supportive services to veterans throughout North Central Massachusetts for over 42 years. For more information on services provided and ways to support this project, visit veterans-outreach.org/expansion.

Secretary of Veterans’ Service Jon Santiago Visits Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center

Secretary Santiago’s visit follows budget testimony given before the Joint Committee of Ways and Means in support of Governor Healey’s FY24 budget proposal calling for an 11.3% increase in funding

Pictured from left to right: Cory Hasselmann (Asst. Director Wachusett Veterans Services), Katie Hanna (MVOC Board member and Manager of Client Needs for NEADS World Class Service Dogs), Representative Jon Zlotnik, Stephanie Marchetti (MVOC Executive Director), Secretary Jon Santiago, Lynette Gabrila (Director Wachusett Veterans Services), Colin Smith (City of Gardner), Todd Soucie (MVOC’s Fitchburg State University Intern).

GARDNER, MA – Executive Office of Veterans’ Services Secretary (EOVS) Jon Santiago visited the Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center (MVOC) to highlight proposed increased investments in veterans’ services throughout the Commonwealth. MVOC provides comprehensive integrated support services to veterans and their families to develop a resilient, self-sufficient lifestyle essential to succeed in today’s environment. Joined by Executive Director Stephanie Marchetti, EdD, and State Representative Jonathan Zlotnik, Secretary Santiago advocated for the $185.6 million proposed by Governor Maura Healey and Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll in their FY24 budget announced on March 1, 2023.

Since 2013, EOVS has provided MVOC with a total of $8M to support the Center’s homeless and outreach services to address veterans needs in North Central Massachusetts.

“Veterans in North Central Massachusetts are fortunate to have a strong partner in Stephanie Marchetti and the team here at the Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center,” said Secretary Santiago. “The Center makes a difference by providing local veterans with a whole host of supportive services related to food security, mental health support, transportation assistance, and housing. I look forward to continuing our partnership with MVOC and thank them for their tremendous efforts serving the North Central Massachusetts region.”

MVOC Executive Director tours visitors through headquarters, to include the GPD transitional living program for homeless and high risk veterans.

“MVOC is excited to welcome Secretary Santiago to our headquarters and discuss not just what we do, but how we can work together on priority issues facing our veterans. As a private nonprofit, it is so important that we connect with the veteran community throughout the state, and we are thrilled the Secretary has reached out so soon after his appointment as Secretary of Veterans’ Services,” said Stephanie Marchetti, EdD, executive director of MVOC.

“I’m very happy the Secretary is coming to my district to visit MVOC and the Massachusetts Veterans Cemetery. I served with Dr. Santiago in the House and I am excited about his appointment, the elevation of his department, and what these organizations in our community can do to continue to serve our veterans,” said State Representative Jonathan Zlotnik.

The MVOC is seeking to expand access to veterans housing in nearby Winchendon, Massachusetts, through the repurposing of two school buildings and transforming them into 44 new veteran apartments. The project will provide access to long-term and supportive housing designed to help veterans age in place.

Between 2021 and 2022, MVOC provided 13,000 individual services, including but not limited to more than 3,500 case management services, 2,355 housing assistance and support services, 1,064 counseling services, and additional assisting with processing of federal VA and Social Security claims.

Prior to his visit with MVOC, Secretary Santiago met with Richard Bastien, Director of the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Winchendon, one of two cemeteries operated by the EOVS.  He then testified before the Joint Committee on Ways and Means in Fitchburg in support of Governor Healey’s FY24 budget, the first to reflect the Executive Office of Veterans’ Services’ new Cabinet-level status. Governor Healey’s budget contained a total of $185.6 million in funding for the Executive Office of Veterans’ Services.

For more information about the MVOC, visit veterans-outreach.org. For more information about the Executive Office of Veterans’ Services, visit mass.gov/veterans.

MVOC Participates in Holiday Food Drive

This holiday season MVOC partnered with the United Way of North Central Massachusetts and over a dozen other local agencies to ensure our community had both Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.  Thanks to this collaboration we were able to provide food for over 450 families! Work with these agencies will continue as MVOC has now joined the North Central Hunger & Health Roundtable group, focused on collaboration and human services.

Montachusett Veteran’s Outreach Center Executive Director Stephanie Marchetti picked up donations for the Gardner Community Action Committee, Winchendon Community Action Committee and Montachusett Veteran’s Outreach Center as part of United Way of North Central Massachusetts’ inaugural 2022 Holiday Food Drive. (Courtesy United Way of North Central Massachusetts)

To read more about this effort, check THIS Sentinel and Enterprise article.

4th Annual Jesse H. Stallings Speaker Series hosts veteran Kurt Power

On Thursday September 15, 2022 MVOC hosted its’ 4th annual Jesse H. Stallings Speaker Series. This year the event expanded to include a community resource fair and was hosted at Gardner’s Monument Park.

Vendors present for the resource fair included the MassHire Veterans Employment Counselor, American Consumer Credit Counseling, Mount Wachusett Community College’s Veteran’s Office, Alyssa’s Place, GAAMHA, Veteran’s Inc, North Quabbin Trails Association, the Mass SAVE team, and a representative from the ROTC.

This year’s speaker was Kurt Power, an Iraq veteran of the US Army who earned a purple heart for his service and dedication abroad. Keeping in alignment with September’s national suicide prevention theme, Kurt spoke about his struggles reintegrating to civilian life and how he dealt with his PTSD.

THANK YOU to our many sponsors for your support of MVOC and this event:

  • Fidelity Bank
  • Commodore Builders
  • ELM Electrical
  • Piper Electric, LLC
  • Dan Piper
  • Advanced Cable Ties
  • Fitchburg State University
  • Padgett Business Service
  • Rollstone Bank & Trust
  • Michael Nicholson
  • Jon Zlotnik
  • Huhtala Oil
  • Anthony’s Liquor Mart
  • American Biomedical Corporation
  • ABM
  • GFA
  • Wachusett Mountain