Michael Johns, Deputy Director of Crossroads Veterans Service District, told Foxborough’s Board of Selectmen in December the town has applied for a Community Innovation Challenge grant to reach out to more veterans and deliver better services across the four-town district.
“[The grant] is technology-based through the state and it is looking for innovative services through regionalization or [a] district,” Johns said. “We fall right in there.”
The Crossroads Veterans Service District (CVSD), established last year, consists of Foxborough, Mansfield, Norton and Easton. The $191,650 grant would be shared amongst those four communities to help the three VSOs in the district communicate through improved telephone and computer services.
“Wherever we are in the district we are going to be able to provide services,” Johns said.
The region’s CVSD notes that with 2.4 million American military personnel having been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as of Aug. 30, 2011, the number of veterans seeking services and assistance will likely increase in the foreseeable future.
“The need for veterans services is complicated and comprehensive – job placement and training is one example: while members of military make up a fraction of the country’s population, the unemployment rate for America’s veterans exceeds the national average,” the CVSD stated in its grant application. “In March 2012, 12.1 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are unemployed, compared with 9.1 percent of Americans nationwide, according to the US Labor Department. Multiply this by medical, psychological, addictions, transportation, housing and many other needs to get an idea of the extent of services required.”
Johns says the purpose of this grant is to help the CVSD’s three Veterans Services Officers (VSOs) meet the following challenges for their four communities:
- To deliver more and better services for similar costs
- To make contact with younger veterans who are more apt to reach out on Facebook than reach for Town Report or telephone directory
- To continue to provide committed, personalized, face-to-face service for older veterans.
Since the district launched, the three VSOs have been available for nearly 50 hours a week, according to Johns, with evening office hours once a week in each of the four member towns.
“For Easton and Norton, this is additional service beyond what they had prior to the creation of the CVSD,” Johns said. “For Mansfield and Foxborough, who previously had full-time agents, this is availability in the evening hours, which can be helpful to veterans who have day-time commitments.”
If this grant is secured, it will allow the needed telephonic and technological upgrades to make 50-hour a week access possible and cost-effective by creating a more “virtual” district.
There are currently 4,692 veterans in the district, 1,176 of them in Foxborough. Johns says this grant will allow the VSOs to realistically reach all of them.
“Three VSOs, four communities all connected,” Johns said. “That is what this grant is all about. … [By] utilizing existing technologies, such as laptops and portable printers, cloud-based storage, and remote call forwarding, the VS0s will be able to serve more veterans because of greater flexibility. … For younger veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, service delivery, access to information, connecting with other veterans and advocates is online. To fully serve and effectively serve this new generation of veterans, service will need to be accessible to them through the channels they use for all information – Facebook, Internet, etc.”
Other benefits to the grant, according to Johns, are enhanced level of service for veterans and their families in Easton, Foxborough, Mansfield and Norton. Realization of CVSD Intermunicipal Agreement, improved access to veterans services, increased efficiency of VSOs to enable them to deal with anticipated increase in veterans seeking services, increased hours of operation and contract, new online availability and improved and standardized financial practices.
Where the Money Would Go
Here’s what the $191,650 grant would get the CVSD:
- $25,000: Part-time project manager to oversee procurement and bidding process.
- $12,000: MacBooks etc.
- $750: 5 printers
- $3,000: Cables, Ethernet ports, etc.
- $7,500: Technical assistance
- $2,600: Telephone equipment
- $15,000: Webpage and social media development and implementation
- $500: Domain registration(s) and forwarding services
- $1,500: Constant contact or other e-mail newsletter/Facebook software; training
- $2,400: Web-based cloud server and storage rental services
- $4,000: Design services for logo
- $1,000: Shirts, car magnets, decals for offices
- $260: Business cards (local printing firm Rea-Craft estimate)
- $1,500: Promotional items (pens, refrigerator magnets, etc.)
- $66,000: Administrative support
- $875: Quickbooks Pro (5 user licenses)
- $500: Training
- $200: Forms (checks, etc.)
- $6,000: Accounting assistance to customize software and oversee system
- $40,000: Administrative structure
Johns said the structure of the CVSD is meant to be used as a module for the state and this grant will be necessary in the success of the four-town district.
“What’s going to make this work is if we have connectivity through computers and phone [across the district],” Johns said. “That is a lot of what this grant is about.”
Selectmen were pleased to hear of the CVSD’s progress and unanimously endorsed the grant application in December.
“Seeing the improvements through regionalization is very impressive,” said Selectmen clerk Lorraine Brue. “I think this is a great application.”
About the Crossroads Veterans Service District (CVSD)
The Crossroads Veterans Service District provides services to veterans and their survivors in Easton, Foxborough, Mansfield and Norton. It seeks traditional costs as it implements a regional service district to succeed our separate municipal departments following the signing of the CVSD Intermunicipal Agreement in 2011.