'I'm not alone'

Community's outpouring of support aids local WWII veteran

Daniel Kittredge
Posted 12/11/14

It was while responding to call several weeks ago that Cranston Police Office Julie Furgasso met Fred.

She had been dispatched to check on the well-being of the 88-year-old World War II veteran …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

E-mail
Password
Log in

'I'm not alone'

Community's outpouring of support aids local WWII veteran

Posted

It was while responding to call several weeks ago that Cranston Police Office Julie Furgasso met Fred.

She had been dispatched to check on the well-being of the 88-year-old World War II veteran – whose full name is Alfred Bettencourt – and found him in a difficult situation. His wife, Lucy, passed away roughly 15 years ago, and he has very little family remaining. He was also having a tough time making ends meet.

“He took 30 cents out of his pocket and said that’s all he had left [to buy] food,” Furgasso said.

Since then, she has “adopted [Fred] as basically my grandfather.” Along with her friend Capt. Chuck Pollock of the Cranston Fire Department, she connected Fred with services and programs through the Cranston Senior Enrichment Center, including transportation to VA Hospital appointments and other locations around the city.

The two also began an outreach effort dubbed “Friends of Fred” with a page on Facebook, sharing the veteran’s story and seeking help to provide him with day-to-day essentials such as food and clothing. The outpouring of support, they said, was immediate.

“It kind of just blew up,” Furgasso said.

On Saturday, at Mangia Mangia at 1606 Cranston St., Fred was on hand with Furgasso and Pollock to greet well-wishers and accept donations. The cause generated such support that after the gathering a truckload of food and several coats were taken to Operation Stand Down Rhode Island in Johnston, an organization dedicated to helping homeless and at-risk veterans find stable housing.

Fred, for his part, is moved by all the developments of the last several weeks.

“I never associated with such nice people,” he said. “I needed the help, and I’m getting it. I appreciate it.”

Fred has also recently returned to a former passion, one dormant for nearly seven decades after he had to turn down a scholarship to the Rhode Island School of Design as a young man in order to work for his family.

At Saturday’s gathering, a table was lined with Fred’s sketches – images of lighthouses, boats and bridges, most done on the back of sides cut from cereal boxes.

“I just picked it up again after 67 years,” Fred said of his drawings.

Some of those who donated to the cause gave sketchbooks and other art materials to provide Fred with the tools to pursue his work. Furgasso and Pollock said no monetary donations are being sought as part of the effort, with items such as gift cards, food and clothing instead requested to provide for Fred’s needs.

Donations can be sent to the Cranston Police Department to the attention of Officer Furgasso #446 at 5 Garfield Ave., Cranston RI 02920, or to the Cranston Fire Department to the attention of Capt. Pollock at 301 Pontiac Ave., Cranston, RI 02910.

In addition to the day-to-day assistance and connection with the senior center, Furgasso and Pollock have arranged for Fred to take part in an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., in May to visit the World War II Memorial. Furgasso will accompany Fred, while Pollock – also a veteran – will accompany Fred’s brother.

For Furgasso and Pollock, getting to know Fred has been a rewarding experience, and a reminder that many of those who have served the nation in uniform are in need of help.

“No one should be alone,” Pollock said.

For Fred, the new connections have made a world of difference.

“I’m not alone,” he said. “I have friends.”

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment