SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

October 2, 2012

Fort Beverly in the limelight

Video stars support program for military families

Michelle Avery had five kids at home, including newly arrived triplets, and her husband was about to be deployed to the Middle East for the second time, when Jennifer Flewelling, then the principal of the North Beverly Elementary School, approached her in 2010.

Flewelling said the school was forming a new group to assist military families, and she wondered if Avery, whose son attends the North Beverly School, would be interested in joining.

“It was the holidays, Mark was leaving in another month,” Avery said. “I think I burst out crying. Emotions were just very high then.”

The story of the North Beverly School’s innovative program, and its impact on military families like the Averys, was the subject of a new video that premiered at the Statehouse yesterday.

Hosted by Beverly state Rep. and U.S. Army Reservist Jerry Parisella and his wife, Lisa, the event drew 185 people to the Statehouse Great Room.

The North Beverly School program, called Fort Beverly, was held up by speakers as a model for how schools can reach out to help military-connected children and their families.

Referring to Fort Beverly and a new website unveiled yesterday, retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Jack Hammond said, “It’s because of you that thousands of civilians will understand the service and sacrifice of military families.”

Hammond is executive director of the Home Base Program, a partnership between the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital that serves Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families throughout New England.

Home Base used yesterday’s ceremony to introduce StayingStrong.org, designed to assist military families. It promoted the website with a 26-minute video called “Staying Strong: How Schools Build Resilience in Military Families.”

The video is essentially a documentary about the formation of the Fort Beverly program and the impact of military deployment on the Avery and Parisella families. Parisella, the father of an 8-year-old girl, Sophia, is a major in the U.S. Army Reserve who was sent to Iraq just months after he was elected state representative.

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