— Beloved Rotarian Hiller Patrick "Mac" MacCartin Jr. wasn't present at Tuesday night's club meeting, but his presence was strongly felt by friends, colleagues and fellow veterans.
MacCartin, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel who founded the Londonderry-based Avery Ministry Center, died of cancer this past October at the age of 71.
Known as a caring advocate for veterans and people suffering from mental illness and substance abuse, MacCartin, who was the longtime chairman of the Derry Friendship Center, opened the Avery Center with the help of the Rotary Club and the Londonderry Presbyterian Church in 2010.
The Vet-to-Vet program began in 2011, after MacCartin saw the potential for veterans to lead peer-driven support groups. The program has been a success and inspired similar programs in several other communities.
MacCartin's ripples of goodwill toward his fellow veterans inspired a tidal wave of efforts by his Rotary brothers and sisters, who gathered inside the Coach Stop Restaurant this week to distribute checks to several area veterans organizations.
The Londonderry Rotary raised more than $16,500 on April 26 during its first "Spring Fling" comedy night benefit at The Yard, featuring former Londonderry resident and veteran Las Vegas performer Tony Pace. The event was co-sponsored by the Granite State South Board of Realtors.
All of the proceeds will assist veterans in need in the Granite State and beyond.
During Tuesday night's check presentation, MacCartin's wife, Carroll, was on hand to accept a check for $400 for Vet-To-Vet in her husband's honor.
"Mac loved the Rotary Club and everything it stood for," she said.
A check for $5,368 was presented to Chris Mitchell, representative of the Taunton, Mass. based Homes for Our Troops.
The nonprofit charity has gifted specially adapted homes to more than 100 wounded or injured soldiers during the past seven years.
A check for $10,736 was presented to Bill Zarakotas, assistant director of communications and development for the Liberty House in Manchester.
The organization, located at 75 W. Baker St., offers transitional housing for homeless Granite State veterans as well as meals, counseling and career placement to assist them in getting back on their feet.
Zarakotas said the Liberty House relies strongly on community support, with about 70 percent of its funding coming from donations from individuals and organization such as the Rotary Club.
"Private donations are very, very critical to the cause," said Zarakotas. "We depend a lot on the little guy doing a little bit."
The Liberty House has about 10 veterans staying onsite, though Zarakotas said there are hundreds more that continue to struggle greater Manchester.
"If you were to come to the Liberty House today and see the continuous stream of hungry veterans coming through our doors, you'd know just how critical the need is," he told the Rotarians. "We're losing the way, but we're winning the day-to-day battles thanks to your help."AGuilmet@newstote.com.