Tag: helps

Adaptive sports program helps veterans stay connected through outdoor recreation

In the two decades since he retired from the Army because of multiple sclerosis, Karl Smith has dealt with feelings of isolation.

For years, the 72-year-old Vietnam veteran from Falmouth didn’t get out of the house much, not knowing when his stamina and ability to walk would fail him. Last winter, he heard about Veterans Adaptive Sports & Training in New Gloucester, a program started by fellow Army veteran and Olympic biathlete Kristina Sabasteanski. Smith was quickly able to make connections with people and get outdoors for hikes, biking and archery – sometimes using a three-wheel walker and a recumbent bike.

Karl Smith practices archery with Veterans Adaptive Sports Training on Oct. 14. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

In March, as the pandemic limited gatherings and forced Mainers to stay home, his connection with other veterans in the program only grew. Though he was unable to get together physically with other veterans for a while, he did not feel isolated.

Sabasteanski kept the group connected virtually, with weekly Zoom chats, which became lifelines for Smith and other vets.

Karl Smith holds a photograph of himself taken in 1969 at his base in Vietnam. In the photograph, 21-year-old Smith holds a puppy. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“I think I spent more time talking to other veterans on Zoom than I had before,” Smith said. Talking to others was comfortable and helped Smith accept and “more easily live with” what he describes as a long-standing ambivalence toward his service in Vietnam.

Though Sabasteanski has run VAST for eight years, on the campus of the nonprofit Pineland Farms, the program has been especially important to its members during the pandemic. They kept connected virtually during the first few months of shutdowns, in March and April. When they resumed the program’s weekly activities – including archery, bocce and biking – it was while wearing masks and keeping 6 feet apart.

More than 160 veterans took part in the program this fiscal year, down from about 230 the year before, a drop caused by COVID-19, Sabasteanski says. The participants – who come when they can, or want – range in age from about 30 to 91. They include amputees, veterans dealing with brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, dementia and a host of other challenges. Activities include archery, cycling, fishing, orienteering, wheelchair basketball and tennis, bowling, disc golf and hiking trips. The program meets every Wednesday, and various other days during the week.

“It’s so important for them to be able to hang out with other veterans and share stories, and joy, doing something fun,” said Sabasteanski, 51. “When the pandemic hit, I thought it was really important to keep people connected.”

The program is funded by a Veterans Administration Adaptive Sports Grant, as well as individual donations, an Avangrid Foundation Grant and by Pineland Farms. The nonprofit Pineland Farms is a 5,000-acre working farm, with grounds that also house education and recreation programs, as well as several businesses.

VAST participants, including Carmine Melito and VAST director Kristina Sabasteanski,

Continue reading

Andreea Grigore: The advocate for legal vacation rentals helps businesses weather COVID-19 and other challenges

How is Hawaii’s short-term vacation rental market holding up with the coronavirus restrictions?

The pandemic has been devastating for the tourism industry, including legal vacation rentals on Oahu and across the state. Many families in Hawaii have been significantly impacted by the lack of tourism, some more directly than others. The vacation rental industry supports a diverse group of people and businesses including property management companies and their staff, house cleaners, maintenance and yard-care businesses, and so many others. In addition, visitors that stay in vacation rentals often frequent local eateries and shop with local retailers, which have also suffered because of the lack of tourism.

The return of trans-Pacific and interisland travel with Hawaii’s Safe Travels program, along with the reopening of legal vacation rentals on Oahu, has allowed some of these hard-working local entrepreneurs to reopen their businesses. We are all cautiously optimistic that continued compliance with the program will keep our communities safe while allowing a moderate reopening of business. That said, the number of flights into the state is still quite low and thus we are still a long way from a full recovery.

Vacation-rental critics complain that unhosted properties like transient vacation units are businesses improperly operating in residential-zoned neighborhoods. How do you respond?

ROH (Revised Ordinances of Honolulu) 21-4.110-1 limits vacation rentals on Oahu in residentially zoned areas to properties that have a nonconforming use certificate, and strictly prohibits the expansion of unhosted short-term rentals of under 30 days in residential areas. HILSTRA supports the intent of this law and feels that proper enforcement of it is an excellent deterrent for new vacation rentals in residential areas. That removes the opportunity for big investors to pop up and run mini-hotel type operations, which we agree can deteriorate our neighborhoods and communities. We are, and always have been opposed to these illegal operations who treat our neighborhoods like hotels.

That said, the fact is that the majority of Oahu’s legal vacation rentals are not in residential areas, but rather in resort zones such as Waikiki, Ko Olina and Turtle Bay. We firmly believe that vacation rentals in resort zones are a core part of the travel economy. Those zones were specifically designated to accommodate short-term travelers, and to restrict or otherwise discriminate against vacation rentals in resort zones seems like a violation of the intent of those areas.

Should the city Department of Planning and Permitting invest more in enforcement against illegal vacation rentals?

One of the fundamental reasons we created HILSTRA was to bring together legal property management companies. We want to work hand-in-hand with the various county departments to put together smart policies and enforcement around the vacation rental business.

We feel that the most successful way to remove the stigma surrounding vacation rentals is to work together with the enforcement agencies to determine which properties are operating illegally and work to close those operations.

During the public hearings for City Council bills 89 and 85, members of our team were able to

Continue reading

Hotel-turned-isolation-center helps hundreds in Baltimore

BALTIMORE, Md. (AP) — A historic Baltimore hotel has been repurposed amid the coronavirus pandemic, serving as a free isolation center for people with COVID-19.

Since May, more than 600 people have come through the Lord Baltimore Hotel’s doors, the Baltimore Sun reported. Referrals to the city’s Triage, Respite, and Isolation Center come from hospitals as well as homeless shelters and recovery houses. It’s intended for people who aren’t sick enough to require hospitalization but who can’t self-isolate at home.

The initiative is a partnership between Baltimore and the University of Maryland Medical System. It’s being funded through $103 million the city received from the federal coronavirus relief bill. While those dollars expire in December, city officials plan to seek funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to keep it open longer, the newspaper reported.

Leon Love, a 68-year-old Baltimore resident, stayed there last month. He says the good care he received there helped him make a full recovery.

The new business has also helped the hotel hire back 20 of the 60 employees laid off earlier in the pandemic, according to the newspaper.

Continue Reading

Source Article

Continue reading