WESTFIELD-This fall, Stanley Park will be the setting for the annual Veterans Picnic in the Park, hosted by the Western Massachusetts Veterans’ Service Officers Association.
While it takes a village to host an event of this magnitude, organizers are now seeking to connect as many organizations and businesses to join them in their efforts to honor veterans and their family members.
The association is an organization of municipal government service officers employed by their respective city or town. The officers are trained on veteran benefits and programs and are knowledgeable about state and federal services that help veterans and their families.
“This is one of the largest outreach events in our region for the community, service members, veterans and their families,” said Julie Barnes, director of veterans’ services, City of Westfield, noting there are more than 2,500 veterans living in the city. “Westfield is a big military city with Barnes Air National Guard Base and the Army National Guard on Franklin Street. We are working with Stanley Park to put on this year’s Picnic in the Park and they are 100% on board with supporting this event.”
Barnes added “many local businesses proudly support our veterans, and the mayor and city council president are proud to host the 2020 Picnic in the Park here in Westfield.”
This year’s event will be conducted Sept. 27 from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. and is free and open to the public.
“We encourage any business or nonprofit to join us in bringing recognition to those who have served our nation from right here in Western Massachusetts and to honor and thank the family members of veterans who have sacrificed so very much for our great nation and way of life,” said Barnes.
Barnes noted the committee encourages any company, organization or group to participate that has something to offer area veterans and his or her family members which help to improve their quality of life, as well as show and extend their appreciation for a veteran’s military service and their family’s sacrifice.
The “mission” for the day is to connect service members, veterans and their families with benefits and resources, to honor their service and sacrifice, and to provide learning opportunities for the public and young people about the legacy of the military.
“This event serves as a way for all citizens to come together in one day to honor service members, veterans and their families for their service to this great nation and our way of life,” said Barnes. “This is important since there is a growing military-civilian divide in our nation. We hope this event helps bridge the gap and allows citizens to learn about military service, what it means to serve in the military, and the impact of military service on the family members of those who serve and have served.”
Barnes said organizers also wish to bring all generations of service members and veterans together as a way to bring an even greater sense of community and spirit.
Organizers note that Hampden County is home to more than 35,000 veterans, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“When we consider adding in family members into that statistic, we quickly see that Western Massachusetts is home for tens of thousands of service members, veterans and their families,” said Barnes.
At press time, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Mobile Vet Center will be participating at the event, as well as benefit counselors from the Veterans Health Administration and nonprofit veteran service organizations.
For more information on how to register as a vendor, contact Carolyn Brennan at (413) 896-3385 or via email to [email protected]. For sponsorships or donations, contact Stephanie Shaw at (413) 887-2025 or via email to [email protected], or Julie Barnes at (413) 572-6247 or via email to [email protected].
For persons interested in volunteer opportunities, contact Gary Howe at [email protected].
For more details and updates on the event, visit www.vetspip.org or follow the organization on Facebook.
“We welcome any local or regional business, veteran-owned business, community organization, and anyone who would like to be a part of this great annual fall tradition,” said Barnes.