Courtney honors veterans's coffeehouse volunteers

cafca | April 27, 2018 |

 Thirteen area volunteers were honored by U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, on Wednesday for their work at the region’s veterans’ coffeehouses.

 

“April is National Volunteer Month,” Courtney said in his congressional offices at the downtown Mercantile Exchange building. “It’s a good time to put the spotlight on the good things that are happening in the region.”

 

Beginning in November 2016, a weekly coffeehouse has brought hundreds of area veterans to the United Congregational Church in downtown Norwich for camaraderie, lectures and resources. Although the events began in Danielson, coffeehouses have since popped up all over Eastern Connecticut.

 

Volunteers facilitate the coordination of each coffeehouse and are participants in the Thames Valley Council for Community Action Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, which is funded in part by the Corporation for National and Community Service. Each of the volunteers being honored on Wednesday received a certificate for their “outstanding and invaluable service to the veteran community,” and a congressional coin.

 

Norwich resident Marvin Serruto, who served as a submarine sailor from 1975 to 1982, said he has been volunteering at the Norwich coffeehouse since its inception.

 

“Norwich is a volunteer kind of place,” he said. “It’s easy to get involved. And this is something that is easy to do because so many people really love it.”

 

Although the coffeehouses are only a few years old, attendance has grown exponentially, which has led organizers to kick-start new meetings in Groton and New London.

Courtney said the veteran coffeehouses in Eastern Connecticut have been highlighted in Washington, D.C. as an “iconic example of the success of national and community service.”

 

“A prominent issue in Eastern Connecticut is that it is so spread out,” he said. “This is creating a gathering spot so people can come together and get connected with information and each other.”

 

Veterans attending the coffeehouses have been connected with services or benefits they didn’t even know they qualified for, Manny Meneses, veterans’ representative for the congressman’s office, said.

 

Meneses attends coffeehouses across the region, and said volunteers have assisted vets in need of hearing aids or signing up for medical benefits. Others have helped them obtain medals they have earned but never received, receive free phones for hearing impairment, obtain vision services, nutrition services and women’s health services.

 

“A lot of people just don’t know the resources there are, or the benefits they have earned,” he said. “This is a great way to do outreach and to educate.”