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Peter Giftos, left, and Stephen Roy cut the cake as the oldest and youngest veterans to celebrate the opening of veterans outreach center in Pittsfield. Watching is case manager Michael King.
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State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier and Mayor Linda Tyer attend the event.
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King, who served in the Army, says swords were often used to cut cakes during ceremonies.
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Bilingual Veterans Outreach Center Opens in Pittsfield

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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Gumersindo Gomez, left, executive director of the nonprofit, says he's wanted to open a center in Pittsfield. 
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A small veterans outreach center took barely five months to outgrow its space — a strong indication that there's an unmet need in the county.
A grand opening ceremony was held Friday at 505 East St., the new home of the Bilingual Veterans Outreach Center of Pittsfield.
"We are veterans and we were taught something very unique," said Gumersindo Gomez, the executive director of Bilingual Veterans Outreach Centers of Massachusetts. "We stick together and we are brothers and sisters for life." 
Gomez has wanted to open an outreach center in Pittsfield for some time now.
There is an obvious need for the center, which is open to all veterans. Case manager Michael King said they quickly outgrew the small office that opened on Wendell Avenue earlier this year.
"That is where we got our feet on the ground but we immediately noticed that we needed something larger and handicapped accessible with ample parking," he said. "This was the dream location."
The East Street location opened its doors last month. On Friday, a small ceremony marked the occasion with local leaders, veterans, and other distinguished guests.
Gomez is a Puerto Rican native with a military history. His father served in Korea, he spent more than 20 years in the Army including in Vietnam, and has a son and grandson who are Army veterans. He was living in Springfield in the 1980s when he and several others founded the Puerto Rican Veterans Association to help their fellow veterans, particularly those whose English skills were preventing them from getting the help they needed. 
The accredited nonprofit, which changed its name in 2012, had several outreach centers across the state, including in Boston (which closed last year). The main centers are now in Pittsfield and Springfield and it offers aid with documents, paperwork and applications for benefits and education; referrals for legal aid, housing, loans, counseling and emergency services; and assistance with claims and information. It also offers the Jorge Oterro Barreto Homeless Veterans Transitional Program in Springfield. 
After the Boston office was damaged beyond repair by fire, Gomez said he petitioned to open a center in Pittsfield.
The new space offers more privacy and room for group meetings. King said it also allows for the center to bring in other agencies to meet with veterans. 
King sees five to 10 veterans every day and helps them navigate Veterans Affairs claims and appeals. He said much of the services have moved online, which is daunting to many of his clients.
"We are going to help them and if we can't do it we are going to find someone who can," he said. "I call it a good battle hand-off. We want to make sure they don't get the runaround."
King invited the oldest veteran in the room, Peter Giftos, and the youngest, North Adams Veterans Agent Stephen Roy, to cut the cake with a noncommissioned officer sword as they often do at Army ceremonies. 
Roy is just under 50 while Giftos is 93 years old. 
King said the sword represents "cutting to the heart of the matter."
Mayor Linda Tyer said she was thankful and proud to have this service available in Pittsfield.
"Having this become part the landscape of services that supply and support and offer assistance to our veterans is key to making sure we are doing all that we can to support veterans in Pittsfield and in Berkshire County," she said. 
State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier told attendees about a veteran and Berkshire Community College student whom she met who had difficulties navigating the complex veteran's benefits system.
"His journey quite frankly and tragically ended when he threw himself off Monument Mountain because it was the only way that he could figure out how to get benefits to his son," she said. "I was determined to make sure we have a way for veterans in Berkshire County to be able to navigate this system."
She thanked Gomez for making this happen in Pittsfield and Gomez said the city is in good hands with King at the helm. He added that they have big plans for the outreach center.
"We have lots of plans for the Pittsfield veterans community. We want to come here to help and that's from the heart," he said. "We got the tools, we got the knowledge, let's get to work." 

Tags: grand opening,   veterans,   veterans services,   

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Cultural Pittsfield This Week: July 10-16


Welcome to Cultural Pittsfield's weekly guide featuring in-person and virtual classes and events, information, and more. If you are a Pittsfield business and would like your event listed, please email us at Thank you and be well!
TONIGHT - Thursday, July 9 at 7 p.m.: Berkshire OLLI at BCC presents An Online Conversation with Jim Acosta. The Chief White House Correspondent for CNN will discuss "The Enemy of the People: One Year, One Impeachment, and One Pandemic Later," co-sponsored by Berkshire Gas and The Berkshire Eagle.

NEW DATE! Pittsfield's first everDrive.Walk.Bike City Art Show will take place on Friday, July 10 from 4-8 p.m. Artists will be displaying their paintings, drawings, sculpture, ceramics, photography, fashions, sidewalk art, videos, and more on their porches, trees, lawns, and driveways, in their garages, or projected onto their homesView the list of participants and locations here!
Berkshire Theatre Group presents a virtual benefit performance live from Florence, Italy. Hershey Felder stars in Beethoven: A Play with Music on Sunday, July 12 at 8 p.m. 
Dramatizing Gerhard von Breuning's memoir, "Aus dem Schwarzspanierhaus," Felder brings Ludwig van Beethoven to life through the eyes of the Viennese doctor who spent his boyhood by the Maestro's side. Featuring some of the composer's greatest works, Felder's Beethoven is an intense, illuminating journey. 
Berkshire Artist Profiles NEW Jacob's Pillow Virtual Festival Learn from Home w/Berkshire Theatre Group | Classes w/Berkshire Music School Classes w/Berkshire Fitness & Wellness Center | Classes w/IS183 Art School | Painting Tutorials w/Berkshire Paint & Sip | Virtual Barrington Stage Classes w/Radiance Yoga | Classes w/Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness Classes w/Antil Fitness | Email for Online Drumming Classes | ONGOING Online Classes w/Berkshire OLLI | FRI 1Berkshire Town Hall: Reopening the Economy, Phase 3 | FRI DLE Virtual Culture Chat | MON WordXWord: Dancing in the Street Virtual Poetry Slam | WED I Now Pronounce You Lucy Stone Live Stream | WED 1Berkshire Virtual Team Trivia | THU Live Storytelling w/BCC Alums

Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness is now offering its Radiant Child Yoga class at Brattle Farm. Kids of all ages are invited to join instructor Julie Pellerin-Herrera on Fridays, July 10, July 31, Aug. 7 and Aug. 21 from 10:15-11 a.m. Pre-registration is required as class space is limited. $15/class.
Berkshire Theatre Group presents Sunset Cinema, outdoor film screenings at Taconic High School. Drive up and enjoy family-friendly movies in the comfort and safety of your vehicle ($25/car). A food truck will be on site offering concessions! Friday, July 10: Disney's Newsies: The Broadway Musical. Saturday, July 11: The Wiz Live! Thursday, July 16: Jurassic Park.Friday, July 17: The Iron GiantSaturday, July 18: Coco.

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