After almost two years since a committee formed to obtain land and resources, this past Saturday veterans from the Island came together at the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury for a picnic and to celebrate an affordable housing initiative for the Island’s veteran community.
For some of these vets, it had been years since the last time they met as a group. The picnic had plenty of food, from burgers being served to cake being cut, and a larger community turnout of veterans than the previous gathering of around 30, according to Bob Tankard, Martha’s Vineyard veterans outreach advocate.
At the event, Tankard announced that after a year and a half of planning and discussing, Oak Bluffs has offered land on Bellevue Avenue, off County Road, to build 10 single apartments and two double apartments for affordable housing geared toward veterans. He also added that the housing will include a library, computer lab, exercise space, one-on-one counseling, and other amenities to meet veterans’ needs.
Mike Colaneri, a board member of the affordable housing committee and the board of assessors, talked to The Times about these housing efforts. “The economy changes and people’s interests change,” he said. “Rules, regulations, and all the rest of it change, so this is just another one of those changes. Housing will continue to be an effort.”
Tankard spoke to the vets at the event, saying, “On Martha’s Vineyard we had vets living in somebody’s basement, on somebody’s couch, or in the backseat of their car. That is not right, so we came up with an idea of trying to find some land for affordable housing.” He added that he and his partner, director of veteran services Tom Bennett, formed a committee of veterans and community leaders to make this possible. Bennett also spoke to the crowd on the importance of Saturday’s event, as he and Tankard are “trying to create a community where veterans help veterans.”
Bennett and Tankard went on to hand out certificates of appreciation for veterans who have been helping over the past two COVID years, as well as people who helped them in the effort for affordable housing for veterans. The first certificates went to Sheriff Robert Ogden, Marc Rivers, and Sterling Bishop for their work in coordinating and transporting veterans to get vaccinations on Cape Cod before they became available on-Island. Then certificates were given out to Carl Schultz and Skipper Mayhew for their work on the affordable housing committee. Next, Randy Dull, Dukes County veterans service officer, and Bruce Montrose, previous veterans service officer, were given certificates. Following Dull and Montrose, Jane Chandler, Anita Botti, and Margaret Deferski were awarded certificates for their help and dedication to the cause.
Following the certificates of appreciation, Bennett and Tankard also thanked and honored Jonathan Searle, peacetime veteran and chief of police in Oak Bluffs, and Robert Galibois, a candidate for Cape and Islands district attorney, who seeks to launch a veterans session program if he’s elected.
When asked about the efforts being made to provide veterans with support, Dull said, “The way the Island community backs the veteran community is just amazing … Especially now that COVID is over, we are able to get more of an assessment of how everyone is and what additional needs we have now.” He added that he hopes events such as Saturday’s picnic can become more frequent.