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The Veterans Services office hosts its annual picnic at Friday at the Greylock Club in North Adams.

North Berkshire Veterans Enjoy Summer Barbecue

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
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The picnic includes food, beverages and gift cards and bags for local veterans and their families.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Friends, family, community organizers and leaders, and veterans from multiple generations gathered under the Greylock Club pavilion on Friday for the Veterans Summer Barbecue. 
Even the nearly 90-degree heat didn't stop more than 50 people from attending the event to support the community's veterans and hear their stories. 
"As we're here talking, you can hear the noise of people chatting. Sometimes, you go to these things, and it's a silent room. It's one way to beat the heat, for sure," Mitchell Keil, North Adams' veterans services officer, said. 
Events like this give people the opportunity to learn about the history of veterans, which is especially important with the younger generation because history is not really taught anymore, 
Travys Rivers, a city firefighter and veteran, said. 
Rivers said about 100 people, including kids, came out on a Saturday morning before Memorial Day to put flags up at the graves of veterans
Opportunities to interact with the community's veterans and hear their stories, as well as seeing their graves respected, are important because it connects youth with the sacrifices made by veterans to maintain the freedom and way of life we enjoy today, he said.
When veterans return to civilian life, they recuse themselves because they feel like other people can't relate to the situations they have been in, Keil said. 
With events like this, veterans rediscover the brotherhood that they built while in service, Rivers said. 
They are able to swap stories and learn from each other's experiences and knowledge, Rivers and Keil said.
"So, getting everybody together for the camaraderie of it all, it's really important for everybody's physical and mental health," Keil said, who served with the Marines in Afghanistan.
Unless technology was part of their job in the military, some veterans won't know how to use pieces of technology that change every day, Rivers said. This is why the North Adams Veterans Services office is so important because they can help with that; the office also covers other North Berkshire communities and Dalton through a shared services program.
The younger veterans can also learn from the older ones by listening to their stories and experiences, Keil said, because the older veterans have a "lifetime of wisdom." 
There has been a new push toward mental health that had not been at the forefront to help veterans and families deal with the after-effects of war, Keil said. 
Now that everybody is starting to open up, the older veterans are, too. The younger generation of veterans can look at these experiences to give them insight into what and how they could live a better life with their families, he said. 
The veterans office has held picnics in the past but Administrative Assistant Tina Samson said when it resumed as an annual event after the pandemic it was held in the memory of Michael Hansen. 
The Hansen family donates to Veterans Services every year to make the picnic possible. Michael Hansen was an Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War who died in 2021.
"It's heartwarming. I think my brother would be blown away by [the picnic." Hansen's sister Pam Wilk said. 
Hansen had moved to the Berkshires after being homeless in Virginia, and Wilk said she does not know what would have happened if it wasn't for the North Adams Veteran Services staff at the time. 
"The help that he got from the Veterans [Services] was absolutely amazing. It made a huge difference in his life. When he passed, obviously, we had the money. I made donations to be given to the Veteran Services, and that's how the picnic started. That's where the money went to," Wilk said. 
"They were calling it the Michael Hansen picnic. I asked him to stop because he's just one of many deserving veterans who should have a picnic." 
The picnic grows every year, and they hope to continue to see it expand every year. People donate their time or gift baskets, gift cards, and other items, Samson said. 
"It takes a village to do this for our veterans," she said. 
The local Veterans Services office uses state Chapter 115 benefits to help low-income veterans who are struggling by providing financial support, food assistance, and filing federal U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs claims.  
The North Adams office also has a food pantry that is open on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for veterans. 

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Hundreds Still Without Power in North County, Stamford

A new pole is in place for a transformer on Main Road in Stamford. 

Update: The National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., has issued another severe thunderstorm watch until 8 p.m. for Berkshire County, eastern New York and Southern Vermont. 

STAMFORD, Vt. — Nearly 18 hours after severe thunderstorms pummeled the region, hundreds of customers are without power. 

The latest update estimates is that power will be back on at 2 p.m. in North Berkshire. Green Mountain Power's outage map could not provide an estimate on power restoration.  
Many residents woke up to the sounds of chainsaws and generators on Wednesday morning as clean up from the storm continued.
Stamford was hit hard with trees blocking roads and broken utility poles. Some 499 customers in Stamford and Readsboro were without power.
A post from Stamford's emergency management director said conditions in North Berkshire were delaying power re-energizing in the Vermont town because it's sourced from National Grid in Massachusetts. 
More than 800 customers were without power in Williamstown, Mass., as noon approached. Tree and lines down along Main Street had taken hours for National Grid crews to address and hampered their ability to aid smaller outages in nearby communities. 
Williamstown Police posted on Facebook that because of the extensive damage to the electrical supply lines to town, parts of Williamstown may not see power until later tonight or possibly tomorrow.
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