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Greenfield Community College opens center for school’s veterans

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Veteran and President of VETNET Kevin Leszczynski at Greenfield Community College speaks during ceremonies commemorating the dedication of the Veterans Center at GCC sponsored by Chaning and Marie Bete.<br/>

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Veteran and President of VETNET Kevin Leszczynski at Greenfield Community College speaks during ceremonies commemorating the dedication of the Veterans Center at GCC sponsored by Chaning and Marie Bete.

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Veteran and President of VETNET Kevin Leszczynski, VP Michael Lewis, Marie and Channing Bete and GCC President Bob during ceremonies commemorating the dedication of the Veterans Center at GCC sponsored by Chaning and Marie Bete.<br/>

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Veteran and President of VETNET Kevin Leszczynski, VP Michael Lewis, Marie and Channing Bete and GCC President Bob during ceremonies commemorating the dedication of the Veterans Center at GCC sponsored by Chaning and Marie Bete.

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Veteran and President of VETNET Kevin Leszczynski at Greenfield Community College speaks during ceremonies commemorating the dedication of the Veterans Center at GCC sponsored by Chaning and Marie Bete.<br/>
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Veteran and President of VETNET Kevin Leszczynski, VP Michael Lewis, Marie and Channing Bete and GCC President Bob during ceremonies commemorating the dedication of the Veterans Center at GCC sponsored by Chaning and Marie Bete.<br/>

— A Greenfield Community College room that serves as a home space for the school’s 200 veterans and their supporters has been officially renamed the Channing and Marie Bete Veterans Center.

Channing “Joe” Bete, 76, and his wife Marie, 75, attended a veterans appreciation event at the college Thursday, followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the center.

The Betes, of Greenfield, decided to make a donation of an undisclosed amount for the veterans center — after touring the campus and learning about the GCC Veterans Network (VetNet) group earlier this year.

VetNet was formed three years ago to create a community for the college’s veterans, said Diane O’Hearn, the group’s academic adviser and coordinator.

There are about 30 active VetNet members, who meet weekly to discuss ways to support veterans both at the college and in neighboring towns.

It became an official student group last year and was given space for a center on the second floor of the college’s north section.

The center provides a place for veterans to study, socialize, meet with veteran service organizations and plan fundraisers for veterans in the community, O’Hearn said.

Bete — the former director of the South Deerfield publishing company named after his father, the company’s founder — is himself a veteran. He served for eight years in the U.S. Army, during a period of peacetime between wars in Korea and Vietnam.

“We in a very small way represent the community at large that’s out there, that needs to make space for all of you in the right kind of way,” he told veterans in the crowd during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“If we’re going to have peace in the world, you’re the ones who can tell us exactly why we need it,” he said. “You’ve seen the price. We thank you so much for what you’ve done.” After the ceremony, Bete said that he and his wife were impressed with the opportunities the center presented to veterans at GCC and throughout the county.

“For 200 veterans to be able to have a place that they could have of their own in a community college, and to allow vets to come in from all over the community, just seemed like a wonderful resource that didn’t exist anywhere else like it does here in Franklin County,” he said.

The center, and the VetNet family, provided a home for Joe Young, who came to GCC a few years ago after 42 years in the Army National Guard.

Young needed stability, he told a crowd at a veterans appreciation event Thursday. He found it when VetNet members pulled him into a room during his orientation.

“I didn’t join, I got adopted,” he said. “It was one of the best things that’s ever happened to me in my life.” VetNet members meet weekly on Wednesdays from 12 to 12:50 p.m.

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