News

Knights of Columbus Host a Fundraiser for Soldier On

22 News WWLP.COM|Matt Caron|September 10, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – An event Saturday to raise money so that every Veteran has a place to call home.

At the Knights of Columbus in East Longmeadow they held Raffles, took donations and catered a gourmet dinner to help raise money for ‘Soldier-On’ an organization that helps provide permanent housing for the men and women who serve our country.

Soldier-On serves over 300 veterans in Western Massachusetts, and more than 7,000 veterans and their families across the United States.

John Crane, Case Management Director, Soldier On told 22News, “We feel that no veteran should have the word homeless in it any veteran we come across we want to make sure they are secure, supported, and have their own place to live.”

The Knights of Columbus hoped to raise between two and 4 thousand dollars Saturday night with all proceeds going to Soldier-On.

Click here to read more.

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News 10 features inmates intervening an attack on correctional officer

Albany  Co. inmates from ‘Soldier On’ intervene as ex-burglar attacks correctional officer

Published:


ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A dramatic rescue happened inside the Albany County Jail after a corrections officer was attacked by an inmate.

The incident was caught on camera, but the person who did the rescuing that might surprise you.

Video from inside the jail, in what’s called the “Soldier On” wing which caters specifically to veterans.

In the video, you can  see the inmates notice something happening and run to help.

The attack happening outside the view of the camera, but not escaping the eyes of the inmates who rushed to help.

“Jumped up. Came out of their cells. Came out of everywhere. Every one of them,” Sheriff Craig Apple said.

The men are part of the “Soldier On” wing of the jail, which allows those inmates to spend time out of their cells and partners with an organization of the same name.

“We really try to get them back into society and live a healthy and clean life.”

On Tuesday, 41-year-old Drew Crowley, who is not part of the veterans program, was in the pod using the phones there.

“We give the veterans free access to telephones. Somebody had let another inmate in to use the phone.”

Crowley then became angry and turned that anger on a nearby corrections officer.

“Just completely freaked out on one of our officers. Kicked him in the ribs. And started to strike and punch him.”

 

That’s when the veterans jumped into action and Sheriff Apple says it could have saved the officer’s life.

“Those inmates turn their back on that officer, who knows how bad he could have been beaten.”

“People who are treated with consistent respect and fairness always rise to stand and protect those who serve them,” John Downing, of the “Soldier On” program, said.

Apple agrees saying this rescue is a testament to the fact that people can change.

“I mean I guess if you put a little effort into rehabbing people it works.”

Crowley has now been charged with felony assault and after another incident Thursday morning he could face even more charges.

As for the officer, he will be on leave recovering from the attack for the next several weeks.

To read more click here.

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6th Annual Soldier On Golf Tournament hosted by General Dynamics

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On Friday, August 26th, 2016 232 golfers participated in the 6th Annual Soldier On Charity Golf Tournament was hosted by General Dynamics at Cranwell Resort Spa and Golf Resort. It was a gorgeous day which led to another successful tournament. Soldier On graciously thanks General Dynamics and their leadership team for organizing the event. The time and effort that each member of the team dedicates to see that the day runs effortlessly does not go unnoticed.

Soldier On would also like to thank all of the sponsors.

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Platinum
Austal

Gold
Anteris
GP Strategies
Lyme Computer Systems
SK Design Group, Inc.
thingtech
Trust Co. Bank

Silver
Adams Community Bank
Appleton Corporation
Axia Group
Berkshire Bank
Berkshire Health Systems
First American Insurance Agency
Matthew M. Pitoniak
MillBrook Benefits & Insurance Services, LLC.
Repro System Inc.
SAAB Defence Security
TD Bank North
Western Builders

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There was a morning and an afternoon flight that played captain crew.

Morning Flight Results:
1st Place: Overall Score 57 Team: Deraway
Craig Deraway
Matt Boulger
Ryan Donovan
Mike Riordan

2nd Place: Overall Score 59 Team: GP Strategies #2
Tom Rumbolt
Gus Giron

3rd Place: Overall Score 59 Team: GP Strategies #1
Mike Gladu
Tim Jamross
Jay Sniezek
Bruce Gelinas

Afternoon Flight Results:
1st Place: Overall Score 54 Team: Pitoniak
Matthew Pitoniak
Michael Rainville
Dennis Yarrows
Edward Pedruzcny

2ndPlace: Overall Score 58 Team: Onyx Specialty Papers
Josh Roberts
Ian Roberts
Matty Lynch
Dan Fuore

3rd Place: Overall Score 58 Team: Cappiello
Tim Cappiello
Rob Maloney
Nate Lemoine
Sean Ross

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Soldier On’s Tinton Falls Project featured in Asbury Park Press

3 Things to know about Tinto Falls project to house homeless veterans

Asbury Park Press | Payton Guion| August 30, 2016

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By one count, New Jersey is home to some 2,000 homeless veterans. On Tuesday, the public gained a longer look at plans to correct course and put roofs over the heads of ex-service members from Monmouth County and beyond.

Political leaders and others gathered at Eagle Oaks Golf and Country Club in Farmingdale for the unveiling of a project that aims to elevate scores of homeless veterans in Tinton Falls.

The nonprofit organization Soldier On presented its plan to house homeless veterans – aided in part by a deal announced earlier this month in which the borough sold the group 12.59 acres on Essex Road near the Jersey Shore Premium Outlets for $1.

Rep. Chris Smith

“When I talk to veterans, every one of them says that housing is their biggest need, bottom line.” U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-4th, told the Press.

The facility would house up to 100 homeless veterans and provide services, such as job training and mental health services, aimed at plugging them back into the community.

Below are three things to know about the project:

1. A lot of red tape remains

Soldier On has yet to secure financing for the project. CEO Jack Downing said his company will work with agencies that fund affordable housing projects in New Jersey to help pay for the facility, estimated to cost about $20 million.

While finding funds, Soldier On will have to work with the Tinton Falls planning board on its site plan. Jim Scalise, the organization’s engineer, said a zoning change may also be required. Despite of the unknowns, Downing said he expect Soldier On will have the project moving through Tinton Falls government within nine months.

2. It’s unclear how many units will be built

Preliminary plans say that development will comprise up to 100 units. Soldier On hasn’t settled on a final number. Once engineers review the site and confer with the planning board, the number of units will become clearer.

Veterans will have an ownership interest in the apartments. Soldier On offers its residents the opportunity to buy into a cooperative, and pay $2,5000 for a share of ownership. That share allows them to rent a unit. Downing said units in the Tinton Falls project are expected to rent for $1,025 per month.

3. Not all the veterans will be local

The organization will focus on housing homeless veterans within Monmouth County, Soldier On said. But the facility is expected to have more units than there are homeless veterans in the county. Matthew Buckley, SSVF Program Director with the nonprofit, said there are about 30 homeless veterans in the area on any given night.

New Jersey has among its homeless population an estimated 2,000 veterans of the United States Armed Forces, according to the state Department of Military and Veteran Affairs.

The remaining units will be offered to veterans in other areas served by Soldier On, mainly in New England.

Downing said that even though a lot of work remains, he expects veterans to move in within four years.

Tinton Falls Mayor Gerald Turning tole the Press that this project is “the best thing I’ve even done as an elected official.”

Click here to read more.

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Solider On to Receive $250,000 for Plymouth, NH Veterans Housing Project

Governor Hassan, Senator Shaheen Announce Twelve New Hampshire Projects to Receive Northern Border Regional Commission Grants

Grants to Help Spur Economic and Community Development in the North Country

AUGUST 2, 2016 CONCORD – Governor Maggie Hassan and U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today announced that twelve New Hampshire projects will receive grant funding from the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) to help spur economic and community development in the North Country as part of the 2016 NBRC Economic & Infrastructure Development Investment Awards totaling $1,550,000.

At the request of North County civic leaders and homeless providers, Soldier On was invited to undertake a Veteran’s permanent affordable housing project in Grafton County. As one of the largest private providers of veterans’ supportive services, Soldier On operates a complex continuum of housing and support services for veterans that is designed to move them from homelessness toward permanent homeownership.   On average over 8,500 veterans and family members are served annually through its emergency, transitional and permanent housing programs.

The Plymouth Veterans project located on 12 acre site on Boulder Point Rd will provide housing and support services to New Hampshire veterans, especially those that prefer to remain in the North Country.  Unique to Soldier On is the development of affordable Veterans housing under a limited equity cooperative model. The model provides each veteran with a real stake in their home, in their community. Veterans are involved in the Cooperative’s Management and in the day to day operations- providing a sense of purpose that is essential to their recovery and long- term stability.

Plymouth Site Plan

The Veterans Administration through their Medical Centers in Manchester and White River Junction, VT will play an active role in the identification of eligible veterans and coordination of VA services. New Hampshire Housing Finance Agency will administer VASH rental assistance vouchers that will ensure housing affordability for each Veteran.

The commitment of VASH requires the project to commence construction by April 2017. Soldier On has assembled a qualified development team to ensure that with the support of the Town of Plymouth and participation by key funding partners, the project will meet that aggressive deadline and be housing New Hampshire veterans by August 2018.

“Each of these projects will promote job creation and economic development by addressing critical priorities, including increasing access to substance misuse services, updating our long-term economic development strategy, combating veterans homelessness, strengthening our infrastructure and supporting our travel and tourism industry. I thank our partners across the region and in the federal government for their collaboration, and I look forward to continue working together to keep New Hampshire’s economy moving in the right direction,” Governor Hassan said.

“Today’s announcement is great news for jobs and the economy in northern New Hampshire,” said Senator Shaheen. “Each of these projects will help revitalize the North County economy by addressing important infrastructure needs and supporting small business growth. I’m glad to see the NBRC prioritizing development in North Country communities and businesses, building on the region’s strengths and expanding opportunity in the Granite State.”

“The people and communities of the North Country face unique challenges and obstacles, especially when it comes to economic development, but partnerships like the Northern Border Regional Commission invest in projects that help to create jobs, reduce poverty, and ensure that the resilient people of the North Country get a fair shot,” state Senator Jeff Woodburn said. “We need to make smart investments in order to expand opportunity for all, support businesses throughout our state, and lay the foundation for a new generation of economic growth. The announcement of more than $1.5 million into the North Country’s economy is a great shot in the arm and I thank Governor Hassan, our Department of Resources and Economic Development, Senator Shaheen and our Congressional delegation for helping to secure this vital funding.”

“I would like to thank Governor Hassan and Senator Shaheen who have worked with our North County partners, lead by Catherine Brentwood and Alex Ray, for this opportunity to move forward with this vital project,” Soldier On CEO Jack Downing said.

To read more: http://governor.nh.gov/media/news/2016/pr-2016-08-02-northern-border-grants.htm
Governor Hassan’s Communications Office (603)271-2121

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Living Her Authentic Self – Success Story

Johanna Montalvo is proud to say that she is finally able to be the real her.

In 2000 Johanna started her eight year tenure in the military with the Puerto Rico National Guard.  Two years later she found herself stationed in Fort Drum, NY on active duty with the United States Army, where she remained until 2008. After her time in the military, Johanna fell on tough times. She suffered from PTSD, which she tried to remedy with substance abuse.

Dealing with the loss of her mother in 2014 and her relationship falling apart due to her addiction, Johanna found herself suicidal in August of 2015. Just days before the year anniversary of her mother’s passing Johanna was able get into an AdCare facility to detox and start her journey of recovery. She quickly moved on to The Hope Center in Springfield. While sitting in a group meeting in September, Johanna was overcome with guilt. There were warrants out for her arrest and up until that moment she had disregarded them. Johanna knew she could not move forward without righting these wrongs.   She followed her conscience and turned herself in at the Holyoke District Court. Johanna was taken to the Western Massachusetts Regional Women’s Correctional Center in Chicopee to serve her sentence.

As Johanna awaited her court appearance for November 6th, Alexis Truslow, Soldier On Psychotherapist, visited Johanna and interviewed her asking a series of questions regarding her childhood, trauma, and addiction. At that time Johanna was not aware she was a potential candidate for the Veterans Treatment Court in the Holyoke District Court.  On the morning of November 3rd she was advised to get ready for court. It was there she was given the option to take part in that program. Johanna was released that same day.

In December, Johanna joined the Solider On Women’s Program. Soon after, she was chosen to be on the house committee. She quickly became an active resident who made herself visible and available to the other women within the house.

On January 21, 2016 Johanna was not only the first woman, but the very first person to complete Phase 1 of the Veterans Treatment Court program. As of today she has completed 3 phases and anticipates graduating from the program in May 2017.  While Johanna is only required to report to court once a month, she attends every week to support the other men and women veterans in the program.

With her record, Johanna has had a difficult time finding work; but Dave Felty, from Homeward Vets, believed in Johanna despite her past and gave her the chance to volunteer at Homeward Vets.  In addition she volunteers at Hope for Holyoke, a center that helped her persevere through detox.  Johanna also works weekly lunches at the World War II Club in Northampton

Johanna is now moving into her own apartment in downtown Northampton, which is fully furnished by Homeward Vets. Soldier On’ s Supportive Services for Veterans and Families (SSVF) program aided her with the moving expenses for the furniture, the security deposit, and plans to provide assistance for her utilities.

Even though Johanna is leaving Solider On, she plans to stay in touch with not only the women from the program, but Sara, Stephanie, and other Soldier On staff as she will continue to get support from the relationships she has built over the past 8 months.

With the support of Access to Recovery (MA-ATR) Johanna has passed her driving test and received a valid driver’s license. She has built her resume with the help Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission and now has an interview at the beginning of August. Johanna’s ultimate goal is to become a Certified Peer Support Specialist so she can provide her peers with the same encouragement that she once needed.

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Pine Ridge Ladies Golf League Annual Charitable Event

Pine Ridge Ladies Golf Charity Event

In June the Pine Ridge Ladies Golf League of Lakehurst, NJ held a charity golf event at Pine Ridge Golf Course on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Naval Base to benefit Solider On. Women from Leisure Knoll joined the Pine Ridge Ladies for the event. The group of 38 women played a 9 hole golf game with prizes for longest drive on hole #1, closest to the pin on hole #8, and low gross, as well as chip in awards.
The longest drive was won for flight A and B by Arlene Key and for flight C and D by Joanne Larkin.
Closest to the pin was won by Rita Cashman.
Low gross was won by Laura Dickinson for flight A, and Kathy Nielsen won for flight B.
Low gross was won by Joanne Larkin for flight C, and low gross was won by Sarah Stewart for flight D
Chip-ins were won by Ethel Donlin and Nancy Wong.
The event chairperson was Cathy Linden with assistance from Nancy Eldridge, Kathy Nielsen and Betty Valentino.
Following the event and awards, everyone enjoyed a lunch and desserts in the clubhouse. The day was enjoyed by everyone and over $1,000.00 was raised.

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Soldier On’s Partnership with Williamstown Theatre Festival Featured in The Berkshire Eagle

Solider On veterans thrive on grease paint, play writing and artist palettes

“Orpheus in the Berkshires” supports Soldier On veterans

The Berkshire Eagle | July 15, 2016 | Susan Bush

NORTH ADAMS – United States Army veteran LouAnn Hazelwood termed her professional acting debut “a Cinderella story.” Hazelwood’s birthday is July 5, and over the past year, her life has changed dramatically.

“Last year, at this time I was homeless,” the 61-year-old woman said. “This year, professional pictures were taken of me in costume and will be given to me as a gift. I came from over 30 years of abuse. I’ve found my voice and my courage. For me, it’s been miraculous.”

Hazelwood and about 75 other community residents opened the play, “Orpheus in the Berkshires,” on Thursday at the new Greylock Works venue, 508 State Road (Route 2). The run for the hour-long play continues tonight at 7:30 and concludes at 5 p.m. on Sunday, and is free to the public.

United States Army veteran LouAnn Hazelwood is acting in a collaborative production of "Orpheus in the Berkshires" at the Greylock WORKS venue from July 14 to 17. Hazelwood is participating with the Leeds-based Soldier On initiative, which is one of four groups partnering with the Williamstown Theater Festival for a community arts project. (Sue Bush — The Berkshire Eagle)

United States Army veteran LouAnn Hazelwood is acting in a collaborative production of “Orpheus in the Berkshires” at the Greylock WORKS venue from July 14 to 17. Hazelwood is participating with the Leeds-based Soldier On initiative, which is one of four groups partnering with the Williamstown Theater Festival for a community arts project. (Sue Bush — The Berkshire Eagle)

In the play, Hazelwood will act the part of one of the grandmothers looked after by Orpheus.

These performances are part of a community engagement initiative launched by the Williamstown Theatre Festival and led by Obie Award-winning playwright, Lucy Thurber, and festival associate director, Laura Savia. Additional cast members and materials were contributed through partnerships with the Williamstown Youth Center, the Williamstown Council on Aging; the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and Rock On band camp, both based at Berkshire Community College, and others. Theater festival actors round out the cast.

Hazelwood participates with the Soldier On program based in Leeds. Launched in 1994, Soldier On is a private nonprofit organization providing homeless veterans with transitional housing and a number of support services.

In 2010, Pittsfield became host city for the organization’s Gordon H. Mansfield Veterans Community, a permanent housing endeavor providing formerly homeless vets with affordable, sustainable homes. Solider On offers a women’s program, men’s program, an incarcerated veterans program and a resiliency health program.

This partnership holds much promise, Savia said.

“The show is a culmination of the first year of a multi-year community engagement initiative,” she said. “We were seeking partner organizations for this and we reached out to Nathan Hanford, who runs the arts program for Soldier On. That’s how we met LouAnn and all the wonderful people from Solider On.”

Among those are Ray Voide, a 56-year-old U.S. Marine Corps veteran, and United States Navy veteran John Goodro, 51. The two combined artistic talents to create “Palette,” a painting displayed at the Greylock Works entrance for the duration of the performances.

 This painting titled "Palette" hangs at the Greylock WORKS entrance on Thursday. The painting was done by Soldier On participants Ray Voide and John Goodro as part of a community engaging art partnership with the Williamstown Theater Festival. (Sue Bush — The Berkshire Eagle)

This painting titled “Palette” hangs at the Greylock WORKS entrance on Thursday. The painting was done by Soldier On participants Ray Voide and John Goodro as part of a community engaging art partnership with the Williamstown Theater Festival. (Sue Bush — The Berkshire Eagle)

Voide has been involved with Solider On since December 2015, and spoke about how the design was created.

“I was a homeless artist in New York City,” he said. “One day as I was preparing to clean my palette, the white went across all the other colors and I liked the way it looked. I liked it so much that I took a picture of it and framed it.”

In February, Hazelwood, Voide and Goodro began traveling to Pittsfield with other members of Hanford’s art group, to attend a workshop series led by Savia and Thurber, The experience was life-changing, they said.

“I’ve done creative writing in the past,” Voide said. “I’ve written a play before, and working with (Thurber and Savia) was exciting. This group has helped us discover us.”

With encouragement, Voide’s photograph became a painting. Voide and Goodro painted the piece together. When the finished work was delivered to the play venue recently, the moment created a once-in-a-lifetime memory, Goodro said.

“It was exciting,” he said. Goodro said he has been with Soldier On since December.

“When we delivered the piece, John turned to me and said, ‘I feel big,'” Hanford said.

“I did, I felt big,” Goodro said. “Really though, it was Ray’s design.”

Voide spoke up quickly.

“John is an artist in his own right,” he said. “He’s got skills.”

“Soldier On saved my life,” Goodro said. “I liked what they offered and now they have art for the veterans. I never thought I’d pick up a paint brush and I give a lot of credit to Nate. He’s a genius.”

Hanford said he believes the veterans possess the creative spark.

“It’s the work that they do; they are the treasure,” Hanford said. “The value is in them.”

Working with the theater professionals felt right for Hazelwood, she said.

“I felt involved right from the start,” she said. “When I was taking part at the workshop, I was told that they were considering me for the one of the parts. I was really excited.”

Hazelwood has benefited greatly from the partnership, said Women’s Program Director Sara Scoco.

“This program really opened a door for us,” she said. “It’s done so much for LouAnn. We’ve watched her blossom; she’s bubbling over. It’s been great to see her take on this role.”

And that is the gift of the arts, said Savia.

“Our youngest cast member is 7 and our oldest cast member is 80,” she said. “The Williamstown Theatre Festival is opening its doors and this area has so many richly talented people.”

The arts are a unifying force, Thurber said. “That’s the hope of art, the hope of the theater, that with all of our different struggles, our places in life, we can get together and create something.”

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Success Story: Chris “Cappy” Leos

Tom Glassmire (left) sitting with Chris "Cappy" Leos at the June 29th Gordon H. Mansfields Veterans Community dedication ceremony in Leeds, MA.

Tom Glassmire (left) sitting with Chris “Cappy” Leos at the June 29th Gordon H. Mansfields Veterans Community dedication ceremony in Leeds, MA.

Chris “Cappy” Leos was born in Boston, MA on July 28, 1958. Raised in Tewksbury, MA Chris excelled in sports as a young child. Chris played football, basketball, but truly excelled in baseball where he played third base at Tewksbury Memorial High School. During his high school career Chris only struck out once and he was later inducted to the hall of fame. Being from Massachusetts he is a loyal Boston Red Sox fan. Chris fell to peer pressure when he was a freshman in high school and started partying. He quickly learned that he was capable of drinking more than the other kids his age. He knew he had a problem, but enjoyed partying too much.

The partying and drinking is what ruined Chris. College baseball scouts sought him out, but Chris turned down the offers.  In 1975 he joined the Marines where he worked in intelligence and communications with top secret clearance.  During his time within the Marines, Chris married his childhood friend who was a tap, ballet, and jazz dancer.

When Chris left the Marines in the 1990s he went to work for United Stationers Supply Co. where he was a floor supervisor. He was also the assistant varsity coach of the Tewksbury Memorial High School baseball team. While working and coaching Chris continued to drink on a daily basis. After 17 years of marriage Chris and his wife grew apart from each other.

After the divorce Chris moved around between Methuen, Burlington, MA and Hampton Beach in New Hampshire. In 2010 Chris ended up renting a room in Haverhill, MA which is where he had his wake up call. Chris quickly learned that the house he was renting a room in was a crack house. While he never did drugs he found he was isolating himself, stayed in his room and continued to drink.  It wasn’t until his best friend, Steve Scilbilia, coaxed him into going to the Bedford VA Hospital by telling Chris they were going to the 99 Restaurant for lunch. Chris had no idea about the VA and the services that were offered to veterans.  With a little hesitation Chris admitted he needed help and started his journey to recovery.

During Chris’s fight of staying sober he completed a series of detox programs in Bedford, Boston, and Providence, RI. Chris became aware of Soldier On during his time at the Providence VA Medical Center. In September 2015 Chris arrived in Leeds and has been an active resident ever since. Chris said the programs Soldier On have been excellent for him and assist him with staying on track. He attends daily group and meetings to stay sober. Chris directs a regular spiritual group called

“Came to Believe.” He assists as many residents as he can and is a promoter of engaging recovery to stay sober. Chris has now been clean for the past 15 months.

During his free time Chris enjoys to watch sports and movies. His favorite movie is Goodfellas. He also works out 4-5 times a week where he rides the stationary bike. Chris’s plans for the future are to remain 100% service connected.  Chris also intends settle down within the Pioneer Valley area as he wants to remain close to the great deal of friends, both the residents and staff, which he has made at Soldier On

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