Gathered at the second annual Salute Our Veterans Motorcycle Ride to benefit Project New Hope are (l to r) Elton Dean, board member; Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito; and Bill Moore, founder, president and CEO.
By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Now in its fifth year, Project New Hope, Inc., covers a lot of ground, both in geographical regions and the multiple generations of people it serves. The nonprofit agency was formed in 2011 to provide free weekend retreats to military veterans and their families.
Bill Moore is its founder, president and CEO. He’s a disabled U.S. Air Force veteran, striving to help anyone connected with the military.
“It doesn’t matter in what era you served – peacetime or wartime,” said Moore, who served during the Vietnam War. “If you were in the military, you’re eligible to come to our free weekend retreats, and participate in the activities and outreach programs at our office.”
Military families are also welcomed, he noted.
“As I was getting married and starting a family, a lot of the services were for just the veteran,” he said. “It’s very important for us to include the whole family.”
After retiring as a disabled veterans’ employment representative for the state, Moore chose to continue utilizing lessons learned while earning a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from Assumption College. He contacted a Minnesota-based organization and accepted their invitation to attend a weekend retreat.
“I liked what I saw, so I took that format and started Project New Hope here in Massachusetts,” he said. “It started out of my home with my own money. None of us gets paid. We’re all former military, Blue or Gold Star families, and concerned citizens.”
Last year, the office moved from his Leicester home to Worcester. While some retreats have been held in Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont, most are conducted at the Grotonwood Camp and Conference Center in Groton, which is owned by the American Baptist Church.
“It costs us roughly $10,000 to rent the facility for one weekend retreat,” Moore noted. “We’ve had veterans coming from all over the United States.”
Among retreat themes that have been addressed are post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma, drug and alcohol addiction, sexual orientation questioning, suicide prevention and sleep apnea. Workshops range from music therapy to therapeutic horseback riding.
“We let veterans know that they’re not alone,” Moore said. “There are other veterans, spouses and children going through the same things they are. A vet will talk to a fellow veteran, whether older or younger. There’s such a sense of camaraderie.”
A weekend retreat was recently offered for blind and visually impaired veterans. Among the attendees was a Vietnam War veteran whose wife brought him from their home in Maine.
“He was kind of quiet when they arrived Friday, but by Saturday morning he couldn’t stop talking,” Moore relayed. “He had attended a retreat in Maine and said everything was geared toward post-9/11 veterans.”
Moore has heard similar feedback about some military nonprofits focusing on those who served from 2001 to the present. Project New Hope also reaches out to veterans living in senior housing complexes, nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Worcester.
“If they can’t come to us, then we’re bringing our programs to them,” Moore said. “We don’t want them to feel like they’re not appreciated anymore.”
Now available free of charge at the Worcester office are some of the holistic therapies offered at retreats including acupuncture, massage and reflexology. A support group for veterans who have struggled with substance abuse meets the third Thursday of each month.
Also, an art therapy program recently began at Peace Art, next door to the office. Moore calls it “date night.”
“It gives the veteran a chance to come, paint, and reconnect with their spouse or significant other,” he explained. “It’s been very successful.”
Weekend retreats are scheduled from March through October. One-day retreats and events are held year-round.
Moore anticipates the agency will continue growing.
“I’m looking forward to reaching out to more veterans, and getting them involved with our services,” he said. “They don’t need to be a shut-in at home; there are services and programs out there for them.”
For more information about Project New Hope, visit projectnewhopema.org, find on Facebook, or call 774- 243-7859. Tax-deductible donations can be made online or mailed to the office at 70 James St., Suite 157, Worcester, MA 01603.