Volunteers of America of Massachusetts (VOAMASS) recently announced the winners of its ninth annual Veterans Leadership Awards, which honor those who have served in the military and those who support them.
VOAMASS is a Jamaica Plain-based nonprofit that creates opportunities for individuals through residential and outpatient behavioral health treatment, re-entry for incarcerated offenders, veteran services, and senior living.
This year's honorees include Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone; a veteran who was wounded during Operation Enduring Freedom; a social worker; and business leaders.
“VOAMASS is proud to partner with special people and organizations in support of veterans facing challenges such as securing employment, finding housing or gaining access to behavioral health care services,” said Charles Gagnon, President and CEO of VOAMASS. “The Veterans Leadership Awards are our way to recognize and thank those who have sacrificed for our nation and the individuals and organizations that help and support them in getting the services that they need and deserve, and to which they are entitled.”
About the Winners
Sergeant Aaron Hale (Ret.) of Santa Rosa, FL is the recipient of the Captain Thomas J. Hudner Award in recognition of his active duty service, including three deployments to the Middle East as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team Leader. Hale, a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient, was struck by an IED in 2011 which caused him to lose his vision and, later, his hearing. Despite his injuries, Hale has overcome these challenges by competing in marathons, running his own small business and speaking across the country to raise awareness for veterans’ organizations. The Hudner Award is named after a Fall River native who distinguished himself as a naval aviator during the Korean War and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions attempting to save the life of fellow aviator Ensign Jesse L. Brown, the first African-American naval officer killed in the war.
Kate Alves of Weymouth, recipient of the Veterans Leadership Award, is a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs social worker who serves as the VA liaison to the Massachusetts Bay Veterans Center (MBVC), a transitional living center. She has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to veterans in the community by ensuring veterans have access to the services they need.
Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, recipient of the Community Partnership Award, has supported the MBVC since it launched in 2012. Mayor Curtatone’s commitment to veterans and their needs has been profound, visiting often to meet with clients and attend MBVC events.
Sumit Nagpal of Belmont and Donato Tramuto of Ogunquit, ME are recipients of the Community Partnership Award. Nagpal is CEO and founder of Cherish Health and Tramuto is chairman and founder of Health eVillages. In April of 2020, shortly after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, they came together to monitor and improve the health of formerly homeless veterans at MBVC. These veterans received biosensors to monitor respiration, oxygen levels, temperature, heart rate and EKG, key indicators that could point to a possible COVID-19 infection.
“VOAMASS has always been a great partner in Somerville,” said Curtatone. “Their innovative spirit and approach to working with veterans during COVID-19 has been a shining example during this very difficult period.”
The winners were recognized during a Zoom event on December 10. While the Veterans Leadership Awards are traditionally a dinner banquet fundraiser that helps support the 650 veterans served by VOAMASS every year, COVID-19 restrictions led to a format change. This year’s virtual program will include a panel discussion led by former WBUR reporter Fred Thys that will include leaders from across Massachusetts to discuss the state of housing, employment and behavioral health services for veterans.