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Veterans Count fundraiser set for Nov. 10 in Nashua


NASHUA — Organizers of the Veterans Count Salute Our Soldiers event are hoping to raise nearly $200,000 to help soldiers and their families with employment, housing and medical needs.

"The awareness is really more important than the money," said local businessman Sy Mahfuz, who is coordinating this year's Veterans Count event in Nashua with Tom Tessier, a former U.S. Air Force member.

Money raised from the dinner will be used to fund care coordinators who help New Hampshire military members, veterans and their families who are in need of short-term, emergency help or services.

"Our goal, really, is to prevent suicides and foreclosures, and keep families together," said Tessier, who served five tours in Vietnam from 1967-1970. "We also want to give them a support system so that things don't fall apart at home while soldiers are deployed."

This year's SOS event will begin at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 10 at the Crowne Plaza in Nashua, kicking off with a cocktail hour, surf-and-turf dinner, keynote address and entertainment.

The event has already been sold out, as sponsors purchased 360 tickets before they went on sale to the general public.

The keynote speaker will be Kevin Maurer, author of "No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama bin Laden." He is expected to talk about his military experience, and also sign books for those in attendance.

Returning this year is Las Vegas entertainer and performer Tony Pace, of Londonderry, who brought the crowd to its feet at last year's event.

Last year, the duo helped raise about $240,000 in donations and pledges during a similar event, New Hampshire's first-ever Veterans Count Spectacular.

"This has been an incredible year for us," said Mahfuz, who served in the Army Reserve as a drill instructor from 1971-1976. With 36 tables planned for the upcoming dinner, Mahfuz explained that sponsors have generously donated anywhere between $1,500 to $25,000 for a table.

According to Mahfuz, 95 cents on every dollar goes directly back to Veterans Count Club, a program of Easter Seals New Hampshire that help soldiers and their families before they are deployed, during deployment and once they return home.

Last year, care coordinators for the program successfully intervened in 29 potential suicide situations, assisted 104 participants secure permanent employment and helped 54 families who were at risk of foreclosure stay in their homes, said Mahfuz, explaining the services are critical and the funding is crucial.

"This is why we really do take a hiatus from our jobs to put together these events," said Mahfuz, owner of the Persian Rug Gallery in Nashua.

Since Veterans Count was formed in 2006 by Michael Salter of Amherst, more than $1 million has been distributed to New Hampshire military families, helping them with basic needs such as childcare, transportation, rent, mortgage, car repairs, counseling, groceries and employment opportunities.

Veterans Count Club has provided help to more than 800 military families since its inception. The program is funded solely through donations and fundraising, mostly from area businesses, foundations and individuals.

Tessier, a senior partner with the financial offices of Weisman Tessier Lambert and Halloran, is optimistic this will become a model for other states to form similar Veterans Count initiatives.

It is crucial for veterans and their families to receive assistance with financial struggles, fear, reintegration to stable civilian careers, combat injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Tessier, who said Veterans Count is offering free services to help with these issues.

The presenting sponsor for the SOS event is Service Credit Union, with supporting sponsors Harris Trophy, Diggins and Rose Moving Co., Weisman Tessier Lambert and Halloran, and more.

Visit www.nh.easterseals.com. To seek services from Veterans Count, call 621-3456.

khoughton@newstote.com

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