This Saturday, Operation Thank a Veteran (OTAV) is coming to #Southie! Through the program, local veterans receive service packages to thank them for their service. The event’s public at the Condon Community Center at 9:30 a.m; Mayor Marty Walsh and Treasurer Deb Goldberg are scheduled to make an appearance. Anyone who wants to be a volunteer for future OTAV events can sign up here.
We spoke with the City of Boston Veterans’ Services about the event:
Q: Since this event was started in 2015, what areas have you covered?
A: Our OTAV volunteers have thanked veterans in eighteen Boston neighborhoods. OTAV is part of a larger city effort to engage and inform residents about services and programs. The Walsh administration has endeavored to promote resident’s ability to access the array of city services and programs; since the administration’s start, we have seen a general increase in awareness and utilization, which has largely been because of the implementation of 311 and programs like OTAV.
Q: How many veterans have been served?
A: There are an estimated 17,000 veterans living in the city of Boston. Seven thousand of those self-identify through the City’s annual census. To date, our OTAV volunteers have thanked 3,000 former service members and that number will continue to increase as we continue the program.
Q: What’s in the service packages?
A: The service package includes a folder with a letter from the Mayor thanking the veteran for their service to the country, our brochure, and a one-pager with our services. The one-pagers from other city departments including Recovery Services, Age Strong, Disability Commission, and the Boston Public Health Commission, and an affordable food map from the Mayor’s Office of Food Access. We also include flyers for seasonal events and neighborhood-specific activities.
Q: Are veterans making more use of city services?
The Walsh administration committed to ending chronic veteran homelessness and, in 2017, succeeded in that endeavor. Since declaring the end of chronic homelessness in Boston, the city has seen a decline in Boston veterans needing Chapter 115 services. Chapter 115 is a vital service to many veterans because, under the law, the Commonwealth provides a uniform program of financial and burial assistance for indigent veterans and their dependents. Qualifying veterans and their dependents receive necessary financial assistance for food, shelter, clothing, housing supplies, and medical care in accordance with a formula that takes into account the number of dependents and income from all sources. Eligible dependents of deceased veterans are provided with the same benefits as they would if the veteran were living.
Q: How do you make the selection of whom to thank?
A: We’re committed to thanking every veteran in the city of Boston. In addition to OTAV, the City of Boston Office of Veterans Services hosts affinity events, such as our LGBTQ Veterans Town Hall and African American Veterans Appreciation Brunch, which further support and thank veterans from various backgrounds and experiences.
Q: Are you coordinating with other veteran groups in Southie?
A: We always inform veterans groups in the area. We usually try to get local veterans posts, student veterans associations, and other veterans service organizations to participate and invite them to volunteer. We’ve been hosted by veterans’ organizations in past OTAVs.
Q: Do you still need volunteers?
A: We’re always looking for volunteers; this operation would be very difficult without them. The program runs from March to November and we do notice a drop in participation in the summer months. We are looking for volunteers for this month and people can register here.