By CALLI REMILLARD Nov 11, 2021 0 Falmouth News In life, the late Joseph Quintiliani was a longtime Falmouth resident, a deep-sea diver for the US Coast Guard and a lieutenant firefighter. Now, the late "Joe Q" is the namesake of a nonprofit veteran organization that he started with friends in 2016. For the past five years, Joe Q Veteran Coffee Break has been providing community and camaraderie for veterans across all military branches on the Upper Cape. It all started with a small group of friends and veterans who had discovered that there was a need for a sense of fellowship among veterans in the area and who decided to do something about it. The organization was established as a nonprofit in May 2020, about a year and a half after Mr. Quintiliani’s death. “Before he died, for years leading up to that, he was in Falmouth advocating for veterans by kind of providing a place to come together, meet and chat,” said Carissa April, the organization's vice president and a retired US Coast Guard commander. “Not so much a place, but a group. Joe was just recognizing like, ‘Hey, there's a whole bunch of people here who really want a place to feel like they belong.'” Ms. April said Mr. Quintiliani and his friends were finding that veterans in the area shared common needs—social connection, emotional support, housing and educational desires—but no one knew who to talk to or how to connect with the available resources. That’s where Joe Q came in. “Everybody called him Joe Q,” Ms. April said. Mr. Quintiliani worked ardently in the veteran community, connecting those in need with the proper resources, building a community and, perhaps most importantly but almost entirely by circumstance, building his legacy. At Falmouth Town Meeting in November 2019, an initiative was presented by a group of veterans to rezone and repurpose the former senior center at 300 Dillingham Avenue for a veterans center. It was approved, and now, two years later, the lease is signed and Joe Q Veteran Coffee Break officially has the keys. “It's kind of a neat anniversary of that town meeting decision two years ago, that a space for veterans to meet and call their own would be provided by renting the building where the former senior center was,” Ms. April said. There is still some refurbishing to be done before the organization is fully functional in the new building, which is expected this coming spring, but the team at Joe Q has already put years of work into the business side of things, refining its mission and vision. At the end of last year, the organization’s survey of veterans across the Upper Cape sought to determine what services were in highest demand and what was the best way for the organization to meet those needs. They received more than 200 responses and are continuously working to broaden their network to assist all Upper Cape veterans and their families. “We have a ways to go to really make this a world-class facility as a community veterans center,” Ms. April said. “And what we hope to do there is really just have a place where a community of veterans and their families can coalesce, can meet and say, ‘Oh, this is where we have our community base.’ We want to create a space for veterans and their families by veterans and their families.” In addition to providing a place for camaraderie and fellowship, Joe Q offers a variety of programs. Some relate to education: tutoring, degree programs, continued education preparation courses, job fairs and even a scholarship program in which they award scholarships to two high school seniors living in Falmouth who have a military connection. They also connect veterans with both on-site and remote health and wellness programs, some of which specifically cater to stress management, substance use addiction, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. All of these programs, Ms. April said, are part of the organization's mission to create an inclusive and comprehensive space for veterans and families to connect with each other and find the resources they need to grow and thrive. “Our focus right now is entirely on the facility, the veteran's center and really creating a space that is useful and welcoming and inviting and open to all,” she said. One of the biggest components of Joe Q’s mission is inclusiveness. Ms. April said the team has put a lot of focus on creating an inviting environment not just for veterans but also for families and friends who are seeking to learn more and contribute. “Anyone with a connection to the military is welcome here,” Ms. April said. “We think that means people with connections to the military will want to come and volunteer or provide services and others will come because they need services. We think it's a pretty unique undertaking because we really are hoping to link these other groups together and really be collaborative with all of the other organizations that already have services in place.” Ms. April said the organization found in its research that there are instances of people feeling unworthy of claiming veteran status, despite having served in the military in one way or another. “They feel they didn't earn it,” she said. “Because they weren't in combat, they don't deserve to call themselves a veteran, or because they only served for four years. When you go to ask them if they're veterans, they feel like they almost don't deserve to claim the status. It's pretty interesting. We're really hoping that our openness, our inclusivity, our welcoming nature really brings people in and really helps them kind of see that their connection to the military is valid.” Ms. April said the team is prepping to build its volunteer corps, which will likely be the driving force behind the veteran center’s daily operations. “We'll be almost entirely reliant on volunteer work,” she said. “Whether that's shift work and being physically in the center and keeping it open, or materials and labor to get it there. And we'll definitely be looking for financial donations and donations of materials and time from people.” Those interested in getting involved may visit www.joeqveterancoffee.org.