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Golfers Go Long for Veterans

  • Joe Carroccio lets go of his club after a bad tee shot on the 10th hole during the Friends of Veterans fundraiser golf tournament at Crown Point Country Club in Springfield, Vt. on August 4, 2013.

    Joe Carroccio lets go of his club after a bad tee shot on the 10th hole during the Friends of Veterans fundraiser golf tournament at Crown Point Country Club in Springfield, Vt. on August 4, 2013. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Kathy Davis of Quechee, Vt. hits out of a sand trap onto the seventh green during the Friends of Veterans fundraiser golf tournament at Crown Point Country Club in Springfield, Vt. on August 4, 2013.

    Kathy Davis of Quechee, Vt. hits out of a sand trap onto the seventh green during the Friends of Veterans fundraiser golf tournament at Crown Point Country Club in Springfield, Vt. on August 4, 2013. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dan Hillard of Wilder, Vt. drops a putt in on the seventh green at the Friends of Veterans golf tournament fundraiser at Crown Point Country Club in Springfield, Vt. on August 4, 2013.

    Dan Hillard of Wilder, Vt. drops a putt in on the seventh green at the Friends of Veterans golf tournament fundraiser at Crown Point Country Club in Springfield, Vt. on August 4, 2013. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Joe Carroccio lets go of his club after a bad tee shot on the 10th hole during the Friends of Veterans fundraiser golf tournament at Crown Point Country Club in Springfield, Vt. on August 4, 2013.
  • Kathy Davis of Quechee, Vt. hits out of a sand trap onto the seventh green during the Friends of Veterans fundraiser golf tournament at Crown Point Country Club in Springfield, Vt. on August 4, 2013.
  • Dan Hillard of Wilder, Vt. drops a putt in on the seventh green at the Friends of Veterans golf tournament fundraiser at Crown Point Country Club in Springfield, Vt. on August 4, 2013.

Springfield, Vt. — One drive, stroke and putt at a time, area golfers converged at Crown Point Country Club on Monday to help fight homelessness among United States armed forces veterans.

In comfortable conditions, 18 teams of four played to a shotgun start in the first installment of what organizers hope will become one of the largest annual fundraisers for Friends of Veterans, a White River Junction-based nonprofit dedicated to ending homelessness among veterans in New Hampshire and Vermont. A dinner followed in the CPCC banquet hall.

Entirely volunteer-based, Friends of Veterans provides monetary assistance and counseling for the scores of homeless Twin State vets that seek assistance. A 30-year-old organization, FOV maintains an office on Holiday Drive in White River Junction and has assisted more than 260 veterans and their families in the last four years alone.

While the national rate of veteran homelessness has decreased by 7 percent since 2011, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, it has increased during the same period in both New Hampshire and Vermont — to up to 9.5 percent and 9.1 percent of all veterans, respectively.

And that doesn’t include homeless vets who haven’t yet sought assistance, Friends of Veterans president Larry Daigle noted.

“Generally, veterans are a proud people, and many of them hesitate to seek help even in the most dire circumstances,” said Daigle, a Vietnam War Army veteran who travels from his home in Granville, N.Y., twice per week to volunteer with the organization. “For a lot of them, coming to us for help is an absolute last resort.”

Though unaffiliated, Friends of Veterans works closely with the Veteran Administration Medical Center in White River Junction. Many homeless veterans turn to FOV before seeking benefits at the VA, Daigle noted.

“Sometimes, they’re referred to us by the VA because the process (of receiving assistance) can be a little faster,” Daigle said. “When a homeless veteran comes to us, we might help them with a security deposit on an apartment, if they’re in a position of (financial) sustainability. If not, we see what their options are for unemployment, refer them to shelters if necessary and help them get on the path toward housing.”

FOV board member Pat Taylor noted that some of the measures FOV takes are preventative.

“We might help veterans who are in financial trouble catch up on their mortgage payments before they get foreclosed on,” said Taylor, a retired Air Force officer. “Homelessness can be prevented sometimes if (payments) aren’t put off.”

Registration fees totaled $500 per foursome Monday, placing the event on par with additional primary FOV fundraisers that include an annual motorcycle pledge ride in May and a dinner banquet held every year in November.

The golf tournament was modeled, in part, after a successful tourney held last year at Eastman Golf Links to benefit several area American Legion posts.

“A lot of the funds we raised that day was donated to (Friends of Veterans),” said Newport Post 25 member Peter Lovely, a retired Army veteran who was part of both golf events. “I think that sort of sparked the impetus for this, and I’m glad it did. It’s a great turnout.”

Organizers were thrilled with the conditions Monday, with sunsplashed temperatures in the low 70s and the course in good shape.

CPCC co-golf professionals Todd Nalette and Dan Russell were happy to accommodate FOV after being contacted by the organization about the potential for the event last year.

“It’s a win-win, for the course and for Friends of Veterans,” Russell said. “Anytime you can help a cause like this, it’s something we’re happy to be on board with.”

To help move foursomes through the holes, the event took on a “shamble” format, where each golfer drives and then advances to hit his or her second shot from the spot of the ball that landed closest to the hole off the tee.

It was a stipulation rule for many of the duffers on hand, including Quechee resident Bill Dwyer. “I think that’ll help a lot,” the retired National Guardsman said. “My drives might go the farthest, but certainly not always the straightest.”

When it comes to helping straighten out the lives of homeless veterans, a crooked drive is worth it every time.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.