, Salem, MA

October 3, 2012

Our view: Three things to like about Beverly

The Salem News

---- — Praise for Fort Beverly

It was good to see North Beverly Elementary School’s innovative program for military families, Fort Beverly, get the attention it deserves at the Statehouse earlier this week.

Fort Beverly, begun two years ago, helps provide support for students and family members with loved ones serving in the military, especially those with overseas postings. The program offers everything from in-school help for students to nights out at local restaurants for adults in military families.

At a Statehouse event Monday, the program was held up as a model for how schools can help children with parents or other relatives in the military. There were plenty of Beverly folks past and present on hand for the thank-you, including former North Beverly Principal Jennifer Flewelling, current Principal Erin Brown, school nurse June Kazes, former adjustment counselor Jennifer Rogers-Burke, teachers Donna Klimowicz and Patricia Drinkwater and city Veterans Agent Jerry Guilebbe.

“It’s because of you that thousands of civilians will understand the service and sacrifice of military families,” said Jack Hammond, 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. Hammond is also a retired U.S. Army brigadier general.

Monday’s event offered a chance for Home Base to introduce It promoted the website with a 26-minute video featuring the Fort Beverly project, called “Staying Strong: How Schools Build Resilience in Military Families.”

Lisa Parisella, the mother of 8-year-old Sophia, came up with the name Fort Beverly. Her husband, Jerry, is a major in the U.S. Army Reserve who was sent to Iraq just months after he was elected state representative.

Parisella, who hosted the Statehouse event, told reporter Paul Leighton he was comforted by the fact that his daughter had her school’s support while he served overseas for 11 months.

“I was concerned, especially with Sophia being 6 years old,” he said. “The Beverly schools really stepped up. We want to be focused on the mission and not be worried about the homefront.”

Coming through for River House

Cheers to Ralph Bates, the 81-year-old Manchester-by-the-Sea resident who is spending his twilight years giving away much of the fortune he made in real estate. He donated $1 million to The Jimmy Fund in 2006, $300,000 to the ALS Association in 2010, and $100,000 to the Pine Street Inn in Boston this year. He has also given $1 million to a community center in New Brunswick, Canada, where his family has roots.

The latest beneficiary is River House in Beverly, which is reopening this week, thanks in part to Bates’ $100,000 gift, after being closed since April.

“It was astounding,” said Kate Benashski, executive director of River House. “The generosity is unbelievable. Single, homeless men often don’t get a lot of attention in a positive way. For him to think about them and make a donation is just a remarkable gesture.”

For his part, Bates downplayed the donation.

“I’m a bachelor,” he said. “I figure I can’t take it with me, so I might as well be good to a lot of people.”

And Bates is ready to give more — he will match any new donations to River House up to $25,000.

An “irreplaceable treasure”

Finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t share in the praise for Nancy Peabody Hood, who has served as caretaker of Beverly’s Historic Balch House since 1970.

Hood, 88, doesn’t just give tours of the 17th century house — she lives there.

“She cares deeply about the house, and she cares deeply about the family history,” said Beverly Historical Society Director Susan Goganian. “She does this because she is really devoted.” The Society recognized the caretaker as a “unique and irreplaceable treasure” during a reunion of Balch family members last weekend.

It is because of Hood that the historic home is open for tours Tuesday through Saturday, from noon to 4 p.m. from June to October, with no appointment necessary.

Unique and irreplacable indeed.