Dracut initiative to spur local economy and inspire volunteerism


DRACUT — A new initiative descending in Dracut this fall aims to spur the local economy and foster closeness between veterans of all ages in the town.

Veterans Service Officer Lynette Gabrila, who works for the town of Dracut, is spearheading the multi-faceted initiative, which includes the issuance of identification cards to Dracut veterans and a request that local businesses extend to veterans a discount at their establishments. Participating businesses will be added to a “Proud Supporting Business of Dracut Veterans” list that Gabrila will have dispersed with each new ID card issuance. She hopes to have the initiative in effect by October.

“We’re trying to get veterans to enhance the local economy, so offering them a discount at local establishments will better the economy of Dracut for all of our smaller mom and pop type shops,” Gabrila said. “I’m a big supporter in local economy, so I want to be able to have veterans try to steer away from so much of the big box stores and just help out the more family-owned businesses in town.”

So far, one business has signed up to participate — M.L. Shaw’s. The restaurant at 14 Loon Hill Road in Dracut has committed to offering veterans a 15 percent discount as part of the initiative.

“I just kind of feel like all those brave men and women have always put the country and our values first, so we should do that too,” said owner Lyndie Shaw. “We should put them first.”

Gabrila said she is currently compiling a list of local businesses to whom she will be mailing requests to. “Along with having your business listed on a handout for our veterans, you will receive a “Proud Supporter of Dracut Veterans” sticker to proudly showcase in your window!” the letter reads.

On a shelf in Gabrila’s office at the Dracut Council on Aging is a newly purchased card printer which will be used for the ID cards. Her phone has been blowing up recently with veterans asking about them, she said. Gabrila added that the ID will bring more veterans into her office so she can get to know them and also encourage them to volunteer in the community and help other Dracut veterans. She would also be able to keep them abreast of events and benefits they’re eligible to receive.

“We’re losing a lot of our World War II veterans and our younger generation veterans — like the OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom) and OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom) veterans — they are not as active in the community as we would like them to be,” Gabrila said, adding that the number of Dracut veterans attending programs during Veterans Day and Memorial Day has dwindled. “We’re trying to get them to kind of come out of their shell.”

Jayne Leather, a U.S. Army veteran who stops by the Council on Aging often to see Gabrila, gave the initiative her stamp of approval on Thursday afternoon.

“I think it’s just an awesome idea for those veterans, especially the ones that have served during war time … to get out and be a part of the community,” the 56-year-old Leather said. “The veterans that have PTSD, it might get them out and get them a little more active, interacting with other people. I think it’s a great idea … and to help us save money a little bit, obviously.”

Anyone interested in participating in the initiative or would like more information are encouraged to contact Gabrila at 978-455-1349 or lgabrila@dracutma.gov.

Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.