United Way hosts Community Conversation Around Veterans’ Needs on January 4th, , launching new Veterans’ Initiative

United Way of the Orange-Dutchess Region will be hosting a Community Conversation Around Veterans’ Needs on Wednesday, January 4th, from 10:00am – 1:30pm at Dutchess Community College, Room 101 (53 Pendell Road, Poughkeepsie). Come let your voice be heard as community leaders, local citizens, and veterans discuss these important community issues and how to ensure our veterans receive the services they deserve. Admission is free, but preregistration is requested (open online through December 27th). To register, go to http://bit.ly/conversation-veterans-needs.

The community conversation marks the official launch of United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region’s participation in the national United Way veterans’ initiative, Mission United. Through Mission United, United Way will be able to connect veterans in Dutchess and Orange counties with the critical help they need.

“Our veterans have dedicated years of service to us and it is time we do the same,” explained Jeannie Montano, President & CEO of United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region. “With the Mission United initiative, we strive to improve the lives of veterans and show our appreciation for them and all they have done for our community.”

The community conversation keynote address will be given by Dutchess County Legislator and US Army veteran, Marc Coviello, the founder and president of the Hudson Valley Hero Project. Panelists will include: Shara Abraham, Staff Attorney with Veterans and Military Families Advocacy Project at Legal Services of the Hudson Valley; Robin Bell, LCSW, Executive Assistant to the Medical Center Director of VA Hudson Valley Health Care System at Castle Point; Christian Farrell, Director of Orange County Veterans Service Agency;  Jim Coughlan, Dutchess County Comptroller and founder of Weekend for Warriors; Linda McNiff, Program Director of WestCop (Westchester Community Outreach Program); Larry Neuman, Coordinator of Mental Health Association in Orange County's Vet2Vet Program; Ed Reid, Case Manager at Hudson River Housing; and Nelson Eddy Rivera, USN (Retired), Director of Dutchess County Division of Veterans Services.

Following the panel discussion there will be a group session and conversation that will be facilitated by United Way staff and volunteers.

“United Way is excited about the community conversation and the panel of experts that will be speaking out on the issue of veterans needs in the Hudson Valley,” said Melissa Clark, Community Impact Manager for United Way of the Duchess-Orange Region. “We look forward to hearing everyone voice their concerns, which we then plan to utilize in the overall strategy of our new Mission United initiative to help guarantee our veterans receive the services they deserve. We thank Dutchess Community College for being an amazingly supportive and helpful partner and we welcome the support of our corporate sponsor, RBT CPAs, LLP.”

“In Dutchess and Orange Counties, our population includes more than 40,000 veterans,” explained Jeannie Montano. “Although the percentage of veterans living in poverty is only about 5% (which is 2% below the state average) this number jumps to 17% in some of our local cities. We hope by working together, we will learn more about the needs of our local heroes and the ways that we can ensure they are connected with the critical help they need.”

For more information about the Community Conversation and the new Veterans’ Initiative, Mission United, please contact Melissa Clark, Community Impact Manager, at (845) 471-1900 ext 3128 or email mclark@uwdor.org.


About the Keynote Speaker:

Marc Coviello, US Army Veteran and founder and president of the Hudson Valley Hero Project, is serving his first term as a Dutchess County Legislator, sitting on the Environmental Committee, Budget Committee, and Veterans Affairs committee. During the first year of his time in office, he was able to expand the military benefits for county employees serving in the National Guard and Reserves, restructure the veterans affairs committee so that it is more efficient, and is diligently working towards establishing a veterans treatment court here in Dutchess County.

At the age of 18 years old on February 15, 2010, Coviello  joined the U.S. Army and within a few months of graduating Infantry Basic Training was deployed to Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn. During his tour in Iraq he served as a rifleman in an infantry fire team. His main mission was to conduct stability operations, focusing on advising, assisting and training Iraqi security forces. ​​

Coviello was promoted to Sergeant on December 10th 2012 (the youngest Sergeant in his entire battalion at that time) and was reassigned to 1-32 INF, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. Upon his arrival Coviello was placed in a squad leader position. A small group of Infantryman,  including Coviello, were selected to be assigned to an Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) team from 3rd Special Forces group to deploy to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. 

Their mission was to train, equip, advise and assist Afghan Special Forces in order to deter insurgent presence in their area of operation. During his time in Afghanistan he served as a Designated Marksman with my primary weapon being the SR-25 Sniper Rifle and also as a turret gunner with on the MK19 (a 40mm automatic grenade launcher). I received an Army Commendation Medal with VALOR and a Purple Heart medal on February 10th 2014 during an intense enemy ambush.

After being honorably discharged from the U.S Army, Coviello founded a non profit foundation, Hudson Valley Hero Project. Since its founding, Hudson Valley Hero Project has served many veterans throughout the Hudson Valley in dire financial condition, issued college scholarships, installed home improvements, is continuously sending goods overseas to locally deployed veterans, purchased a completely paid in full handicap accessible van for a paraplegic veteran and assisted a veteran battling leukemia pay for his travel expenses to a hospital in New York City as well as many other initiatives.

His awards and decorations include:  The Combat Infantry Badge, The Expert Infantry Badge, The Purple Heart Medal, Army Commendation Medal With Valor, Army Commendation Medal (x3), Army Achievement Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Medal, Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Good Conduct Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Expert Weapons Qualification Badge, and, in 2015, he was youngest inductee at the time into the NYS Senate's Veterans Hall of Fame. 

About the Panelists:

Shara Abraham is a Staff Attorney with the Veterans and Military Families Advocacy Project at Legal Services of the Hudson Valley.  Prior to joining LSHV, Ms. Abraham was a Law Clerk to the Honorable Lisa Margaret Smith, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, and served as an Assistant District Attorney in the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office.  Ms. Abraham is a graduate of American University’s Washington College of Law, where she was co-Editor-in-Chief of the Human Rights Brief.

Robin Bell is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with extensive experience working with the seriously mentally ill population.  She has worked at the Department of Veterans Affairs for 6 ½ years, in various roles including HUD VASH Coordinator, Mental Health Care Line Business Manager, and has been in her current role of Executive Assistant to the Director for one year.

Jim Coughlan is a multi-lingual attorney with almost 25 years leadership and management experience in both private and public sectors. He is the Dutchess County Comptroller and supervises an annual budget of approximately $450 Million. Coughlan is the founder of Weekend for Warriors, which is an experienced based event that recognizes individual veteran’s service while promoting community awareness of veterans needs in Dutchess County and the Hudson Valley. Weekend for Warriors is partnering with the United Way of Dutchess and Orange to assist local non-profits that focus on assisting veterans as the transition to civilian life.

Christian Farrell has served as the Director of the Orange County Veterans Service Agency for the past two years.  He is an Iraq War Veteran. He spent eight years in the United States Army serving as a Staff Sergeant.

Linda McNiff is a retired professional in the semiconductor industry in the Hudson Valley where she had spent 30 years in a management position. During that time, she served as a volunteer and/or chaired several boards within the Dutchess County community. In addition, she served on the steering committee for shelter operations at the Hillcrest Homeless Shelter in Poughkeepsie (now known as the Webster House). McNiff is currently employed by Westchester Community Opportunity Program (WestCOP) and manages the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program (SSVF) for the Mid-Hudson Valley Region, including Orange, Ulster, Sullivan and Dutchess counties. She is currently the co-chair for the Hudson Valley Veterans Task Force, the Outreach for Returning Warriors Task Force and is a member of the Hudson Valley’s Veterans Advisory Board and the Service Academy Nomination Committee for the Office of U.S. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney. A lifetime resident of the Hudson Valley, McNiff lives in Beacon and has served as an advocate for the homeless population in the Hudson Valley for more than 25 years.

Larry Neumann is the Program Coordinator for the Vet2Vet Program in Orange County, New York. He began his work in social services as the Housing Director for a mid-sized agency in Middletown where he managed several grants, including two veterans’ housing programs. He is also a certified HUD Housing Inspector. Larry is a NAVY Veteran, having served 6 years, including two WESTPAC tours.

Ed Reid has worked for Hudson River Housing for twelve years as a counselor and case manager, with the last four years spent as a case manager for SSVF (Supportive Services for Veteran Families), a VA funded initiative aimed at ending veteran homelessness. Since 2013 in Dutchess County, the five person SSVF group has been responsible for housing and/or preventing homelessness for nearly 400 veterans and veteran families. Prior to coming to Hudson River Housing, Reid spent over 30 years in the corporate world, in various fields, including accounting, personnel, immigration and international trade, as well as serving as Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regional manager for an I/T solutions firm.

Nelson Eddy Rivera, USN (Ret) is the Director of the Dutchess County Division of Veterans’ Services.  He first served as the Deputy from 1999 to 2004 and appointed to Director in April 2004.  The Dutchess County Division of Veterans’ Services committed to ensuring county veterans and their families are aware and receive all the benefits they are entitled to by their Honorable Service to our Country.  As Director, Mr. Rivera has been committed to expanding the agency’s outreach to county veterans with active participation in local community events and working with local veterans’ organizations.