Veterans often say they want a hand up, not a hand out, and that’s exactly what Eastern Bank is trying to provide with its latest charitable donation.
Eastern’s charitable foundation recently awarded $50,000 to UMass Lowell’s Office of Veteran Services to help kick-start the school’s Veterans Fund.
UML’s Veterans Fund provides short-term, zero-interest loans to its student veterans. The goal is to help them stay in school, said Steve Diprete, a commercial lender who also co-chairs Eastern Bank’s Military Veterans and Families Network.
“The key to any individual’s success is a great education and if we can help a veteran achieve an education, the opportunities are endless for them, not just at this immediate moment but for the rest of their life and for their family,” he told me recently.
As Janine Wert, director of veteran services at UMass Lowell, pointed out, student veterans are a little bit different than your traditional college population.
“They’re older, they have families, many of them have mortgages, so their financial responsibilities are not equivalent to an 18-year-old student coming in as a freshman,” she said. “The most common reason veterans leave school is a financial crisis. A spouse gets laid off or there’s an unexpected expense. These are folks who have previously been professionals, so what they do is they abandon their academic goals so they can support their families.”
The new Veterans’ Fund is just the latest piece of support UML’s office of veteran services offers to student veterans in their academic careers. The university currently has more than 1,200 student veterans attending classes, Wert told me.
Eastern Bank’s partnership with UMass Lowell goes back several years, Diprete told me. When he and his co-chair Michael Uretsky (neither of whom are vets) met with Coleman Nee, then the state secretary of veterans’ services, Nee put them in touch with Wert.
“If you’ve taken your car in and they told you you need $1,500 in repairs, for a student veteran who’s living month to month, that $1,500 might as well be a million dollars because they just don’t have it,” Wert said. “That is why we’re so grateful for Eastern Bank’s support and we’re really excited about the number of lives it’s going to affect.”
We here at Banker & Tradesman are inundated every day with announcements of various charitable donations and volunteer hours spent. We ordinarily spotlight them in our Community Good Works column every Friday, but this one goes beyond the usual big-check photo-opp.
I’ll wrap this up with an especially nice comment from Diprete about the importance of this program: “If you talk to a vet, they always tell you, we want a hand up, not a hand out. This is that hand up. A college degree is forever.”