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Grand Circle's Up & Out Program Helps a Formerly Homeless Veteran Start Again

On Saturday, April 9, 2011, a team of Grand Circle associates gathered to help a deserving armed forces veteran turn the page and begin a positive new chapter in his life. Through the efforts of Grand Circle Foundation's Up and Out program, Marine Jim Duffy made the move from the New England Center for Homeless Veterans to his own apartment in Boston's South End—lovingly furnished and prepared for him by the donations and efforts of Grand Circle associates.

Soft-spoken and quietly dignified, Jim Duffy served the Marine Corps as an interpreter from 1966 through 1969. A graduate of Boston College, with an MBA in Finance, he has been living in the shelter for the past two and a half years. Grand Circle's Up and Out program is dedicated to easing the transition between living in a shelter and moving out on one's own, and recently aligned itself with the New England Center for Homeless Veterans. Not long ago, Duffy was hired as a manager at a rental company in Somerville, Massachusetts. While he gained a steady source of income, he had few possessions to his name when it came time to leave the shelter. Over 25 Grand Circle associates, with further assistance from Grand Circle Foundation, donated furniture and housewares to properly outfit Duffy's new residence—with a selfless spirit that echoed the Corps' iconic motto, Semper Fi: Always Faithful.

"Both in terms of donations and offers to help move, the response to this new program to aid our veterans has been phenomenal," says Grand Circle's volunteer project lead, Mike Guerrera. "We're helping people that gave so much so that we can enjoy the liberties we do today. This move with Jim was exceptionally special because I have a strong fondness for Marines, as my grandfather served in Guadalcanal in World War II as a Marine."

The morning of Duffy's move began early, at 8am, when Grand Circle associates Lauren Fabrizio and Julie Kremer arrived at Duffy's future apartment and gave it a thorough cleaning. Across town, fellow associates Guerrera and Ralph Boutwell loaded a van with all the donated items. As van arrived and the team unloaded and decorated the space, homemade cookies baking in the oven reinforced the familial warmth and homey atmosphere at the heart of the day's efforts. When it was all done, Duffy was handed the keys to his apartment—powerful symbols of his bright new future.

"When we discussed the Saturday he would be moving in," Guerrera recalls, "Jim was thinking about how Saturdays were typically the busiest day for his new job and how he didn't want to leave his team—he is committed to helping and leading them. When Jim gave me his keys, his last words to me were, 'You tell me where and when and I'll figure out the how. I'm a Marine.'"

"Jim arrived here at 12:15 on Saturday," Lauren Fabrizio adds. He was visibly moved upon entering and seeing the results of all of his dedicated efforts, which had brought him up from the streets to his own gleaming, newly furnished 12th floor apartment. "I gave him his keys back," Fabrizio concludes, "and with tears in his eyes, he said 'It's good to be home.'"

Featured in our April 2011 E-Newsletter. Read full issue here.