By Katina Caraganis

MediaNews

ASHBY -- Project New Hope, a new veterans services organization in Central Massachusetts, has gotten a strong financial boost from the Ashby American Legion, which raised $5,320 to donate to the group.

Project New Hope, run entirely by volunteers, holds weekend retreats for veterans returning home from active duty and their families as a way to reconnect after a long absence.

All the money raised came from the Legion's annual car show. In total, 183 cars were on display, Legion Commander Tom Sanford said. Each car owner paid $20 to participate, and the rest of the money came from the event's nine corporate sponsors and 32 other sponsors.

Additional donations were made after the event, he said.

Sanford said the Legion always gets letters from various organizations seeking support, and he and members of a committee choose one to support with the money raised at the car show.

He said what Project New Hope does for veterans returning home stood out to him and the other members of the committee, and they felt it was a worthy cause to support.

"They do retreats for veterans and their families. They go out and spend a weekend in the woods together and have the chance to relax together. The family needs time to adjust to having a soldier home after being gone," he said.

He said the veteran may have a mental or physical wound, and his or her family may not know the best way to deal with it.


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These retreats help begin the process of bringing a family back together, he said.

Bill Moore of Project New Hope, which is based in Leicester, said the money will go a long way toward providing services to veterans and their families.

"That money is huge for us," he said.

On average, it takes about $6,000 to fund one weekend retreat.

Project New Hope is less than 2 years old, Moore said, and has almost doubled the number of veterans it has been able to help in that time period.

"It's very powerful having vets coming back from doing multiple tours and they say you saved their life, their marriage, and we gave them hope," he said.

Moore said he and other volunteers with the organization partner with local veterans centers to target returning veterans, and help provide necessary services.

"They can't do it alone. When a soldier deploys, you have a spouse at home. That spouse is trying to keep it together. You have a soldier come home and they have post-traumatic stress disorder or something else," he said.

The support the spouses receive is just as important as the support the veterans get, he said.

"This is to show they aren't alone," he said. "We have workshops for kids. Through these retreats, there's a lot of collaboration going on. We provide resources. We're growing as we're moving forward. Looking back, it's amazing what we've been able to accomplish," he said.

Follow Katina Caraganis on Twitter @kcaraganis.