The Military Community Assistance Fund was created earlier this year by the joint efforts of the Saint Michael’s College Military Community Services Office, Student Veterans of America, and community partners serving veterans.
Chris Boutin, a Marine student veteran and current Saint Michael’s SVA member who has been the driving force in steering the fund’s direction, said its original mission was to create packages for new residents in the West Canal Street Veteran’s House in Winooski, a transitional housing complex for homeless veterans. But recent talks with local partners being served helped the Fund’s creators realize that the West Canal Street House program is very successful and does not require the Fund’s full attention. As a result, the Fund will expand the scope of those it serves.
“We decided to expand our program to encompass active duty, Guard members, veterans, and Saint Michael’s College military community members,” Boutin said. “This fund will assist applicants up to $200, the original cost of a package for the West Canal Street house. Applications will be reviewed by a panel of SVA members, faculty, and alumni who wish to participate. Some things we will assist in are winter clothing purchases, food assistance, emergency repairs, packages for West Canal Street, and travel assistance in the case of a family illness or death.”
He said the recent adjustments have been a collaborative SVA effort under the guidance of Ken O’Connell, the College’s new veterans and military family services coordinator, who has valuable relevant experience volunteering and community-building.
“The fund will be stored in an account separate from the SVA’s operations account and quarterly updates will be provided by the SVA’s elected treasurer. This fund will become the SVA’s primary project for fund-raising,” Boutin said. “We chose this project because it exemplifies both the mission of Saint Michael’s College and the Saint Michael’s College SVA: service to others.”
O’Connell and Boutin said the group’s first goal for the newly expanded Fund is $2,000: the equivalent to 10 packages for the West Canal Street House. These packages include a comforter, a sheet set, two pillows with cases, two towels, two washcloths, two hand towels, toiletry items, and a plastic tote to hold all the items.
Boutin offered perspective: “This goal may sound ambitious; however, that is only a $1 donation from each student on campus. A donation of $1 could help provide a sense of normalcy to a struggling veteran’s life.”