image description
The Elks hosted a cookout with the city's Veterans Services Office on Friday.
image description
Close to 100 veterans had stopped by about midway through the cookout. All the food was donated by the Elks Lodge.
image description
image description
Tina Samson of the veterans office and her husband donated the bike for a raffle.
image description
Mayor Thomas Bernard pulls the ticket for the bike winner.

North Adams Elks, Veterans Office Host Picnic for Veterans

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
Print Story | Email Story

Donald Gagne was wounded in combat in Korea. He still has a tiny piece of shrapnel near his right eye. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Friday's picnic at the Elks Lodge was an informal affair. Plenty of food — salads, burgers, dogs and cookies — and some good company at the picnic tables set up under a tent. 
 
But the attendees were also taking away more than just food and conversation. This first annual picnic was offering a "goodie bag" of wellness supplies and a gift certificate for each veteran who attended. 
 
The outing was a collaboration between the local Elks Lodge 487and the Veterans Service Office at City Hall. The office's assistant Tina Samson said everything had been donated with the Elks as the main sponsor. 
 
"I got tied up with Tina, and we got stuff from Elks and we brought it over to Tina so she could give it to the veterans," said Elks member and Vietnam veteran Tony Sacco. The lodge last year raised more than $1,000 that was used to buy gift cards for the veterans office to distribute. "She had stuff she gave to me, it turned into a sort of a little marriage that worked out well."
 
Sacco approached the Elks and told the organization what he had in mind. It responded with a $3,500 donation that Sacco used to buy 100 $35 gift certificates from the Big Y, Stop & Shop, Walmart, Dollar Store, Dollar Tree, Ocean State Job Lot, McDonald's and Cumberland Farms. 
 
The Elks also supplied all the food; the CVS warehouse in Ludlow donated boxes of wellness supplies that were divvied up into bags full of soap, vitamins, bandages, compression socks and over-the-counter medications. Samson and her husband donated a children's bicycle made by the Bicycle Corporation of America that was raffled off. 
 
Donald Gagne, an Army veteran of the Korean War veteran, and his daughter Susan attended the picnic. 
 
Gagne was wounded with shrapnel, losing the sight in his right eye. "I was in the front lines," he said. "I was all over." His daughter said he spent six months in a hospital in Japan before being discharged. 
 
"He wanted to go back in but they wouldn't let him," she said. "He was a sergeant and had a platoon ... he left those guys there but didn't want to."
 
Proudly wearing a service cap and his purple heart, Gagne doesn't remember much about his wartime experiences anymore but said he would go if called again, laughing that he could see well enough if maybe not quite shoot straight. 
 
"I always enjoy picnics or parties, that's the first best thing they have," he said. "I take things as they are. If they need my help, I'm gone." 
 
Veterans Service Officer Stephen Roy said the office has lots of donations come in, particularly sanitary goods like bandages that can be expensive for veterans. The office has a small commissary with those supplies and canned and boxed goods set up in the former judge's chamber at City Hall.
 
"They're proud. Sometimes they're too proud to take any handouts or anything," Samson said. "This is better. I like it like this. This is a great thing Tony did."
 
Mayor Thomas Bernard attended and pulled the winning name for the bicycle. 
 
"I really appreciate the invitation to come over and spend time with our veterans today," he said. "I know that our Veterans Service Office does a lot of work but the Elks take this on as a project of service. 
 
"It says something about the strength of our community."
 
Sacco hopes to repeat the event and provide more services for local veterans.
 
"The more you look at it, the more they need," he said of his fellow veterans. "They are worthy of what they get ... hopefully, we can do this again next year and again the year after because there's always veterans."  

Tags: donations,   elks club,   veterans,   

1 Comments
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to info@iberkshires.com.

'Joker': Doesn't Kid Around

By Michael S. GoldbergeriBerkshires Film Critic
If van Gogh were alive today and dabbling in film, I expect that he might create something as artistically maddening as Todd Phillips' "Joker." But we must tread carefully. The controversy is there for the taking. 
 
Joaquin Phoenix's Arthur Fleck, who will ultimately evolve into his alter ego, the Joker, before the closing credits fall on this fantastically directed, acted and produced "Batman" offshoot, is off the hook in every definition of the term. Thus the question is begged: Is it OK to derive entertainment from the criminally insane?
 
Phillips, who co-wrote this magnum opus with Scott Silver, throws all decorum and caution to the wind as he lavishes broad, violently-infused brushstrokes across a canvas hellbent on saying whatever it takes to get across its explosive meditation on the shocking sources and depths of evil. As we follow Arthur's devolution from simply sad Momma's Boy working for a clown rental company to a full-fledged crazy man on the loose in Gotham City, only our variety of cringe changes ... a different one for each new and expanded atrocity.
 
But what we suspect disturbs us most is the horrible, enigmatic truth that swirls at the vortex of the tale. It's something about the human animal either deep in our DNA and attributable to a brutal, prehistoric past, or, much worse, an ignominious, bad person gene we'd like to believe doesn't exist. It's precisely the perversity that has us so freaked out about the current situation in Washington ... the total disconnect from, and abandonment of, propriety and the nobility of truth.
View Full Story

More North Adams Stories