By Ulrika G. Gerth
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Two local veterans are extending a helping hand to keep the hands of their struggling peers warm.
Frank Peluso and Don Jarvis hope the public will pitch in to fill every donation box to the brim with gloves for veterans in need this winter. The drive called “Gloves for Love” is the first endeavor of Patriots for American Veterans, a local nonprofit organization founded by Peluso in early November.
“A pair of gloves may seem like a really small thing, but it’s one less thing for them to worry about,” said Don Jarvis, a 27-year-old veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and chairman of the board of the new organization.
Both know the staggering needs of veterans in the area. Jarvis only has to look at himself to feel the pain of others who also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A friend and fellow serviceman has attempted suicide, Jarvis said. Another has developed a drug addiction. Many have been unable to find jobs.
The gloves will be distributed Sunday, Dec. 8, among those who have lost everything to their demons, the close to 300 residents at the New England Center for Homeless Veterans, a seven-story complex near Government Center in Boston. Peluso, who served in the Army Reserve from 1966 to 1972, is a familiar face at the center, having since 2001 spearheaded fundraisers and served up coffee and doughnuts during the holiday season.
As the president of Patriots for American Veterans he will dedicate even more of his time to helping veterans and their families, filling a void in communities like Newburyport and Amesbury where there is little organized support, they said.
“I want to give 100 percent to the veterans,” he said.
Peluso reached out to Veterans Services Officer Kevin Hunt, who put him in touch with Jarvis. The five-member board now meets the first Wednesday of every month at the North End Boat Club and invites anyone, veteran or not, to attend.
“This is locally based and that’s huge,” Jarvis said. “It has a hometown feel, so it’s easier for people to get involved.”
Jarvis has been on the receiving end of nonprofits and describes his desire to help others as “therapeutic.”
The 2004 graduate of Triton Regional High School served as an E-4 specialist combat engineer with the Massachusetts Army National Guard 182nd Engineering Company of the 101st Engineering Battalion when the vehicle he was traveling in hit an IED in Afghanistan. He was medically evacuated in the spring of last year and spent six months in recovery at a military hospital in Washington, D.C., where he witnessed first-hand how much small gestures of support meant to the soldiers.
Jarvis said the new organization can do “a ton of things” from offering PTSD support groups to developing connections between unemployed veterans and local businesses. They also hope to make a direct impact by assisting military families with purchases or home remodelings.
“I think it will grow,” Jarvis said.
“I know it,” Peluso filled in. “I think of different things all the time.”
Donation boxes can be found in Newburyport at City Hall, the TD Bank on Low Street and the North End Boat Club off Merrimac Street; in Amesbury at the TD Bank on Main Street; and in Salisbury at Uncle Eddie’s and the Blue Ocean Music Hall at the concert of Gary Hoey, Dec. 6.