“Leave no one behind” during the COVID-19 crisis has been the unofficial rallying cry for staff at Veterans Northeast Outreach Center (VNOC), which is opening Food Distributions Pop-Ups in Haverhill and Danvers, MA.

In Haverhill, the pop-up center is at Northern Essex Community College, while the other location is in Danvers at North Shore Community College.

At the first pop-up center on Wednesday, April 22 at Northern Essex Community College, VNOC’s Gail Hewins said they were able to distribute boxes to more than 50 local veterans and their families. 

“We truly appreciated the help of about 18 hardy and caring volunteers from the local American Legion Post 8, Lawrence Elks, Northern Essex Community College, local Veteran Service Officers, and North Shore Community College,” she said. “It would not have been as smooth and successful a day without them.”

Noting each location will be open on alternating Wednesdays, VNOC’s John Ford also credited the efforts of other community stakeholders.

“Eagle Leasing is donating two 40-foot storage containers to store non-perishable food kits that preregistered veterans can pick up,” he said. “Food4Vets through the Mass Military Support Foundation will help us identify veterans, who will sign up to receive a box.”

Other project partners include Shaheen Brothers Food Distributing, which is providing perishable items, including produce, dairy and snacks.

“We are so grateful to all our partners,” said Ford, who said it took less than a week to set up the entire operation.

“Each box should contain up to two weeks of non-perishable foods that should support 2 people for 2 weeks,” he added.

For David Eagle of Eagle Leasing, based out of Southborough, MA, the opportunity to help veterans through VNOC literally brought “a smile to [their] faces” at the company.

“My 96 year old father-in-law fought in the Battle of the Bulge and earned a bronze star,” he noted. “He has inspired our whole family with his bravery and service. We, in turn, have always been supportive of all Vet-related causes.”

Expressing gratitude at the support VNOC has received from Eagle Leasing and other organizations “to meet basic food needs” for veterans and their families, Ford said the program should last about 6 weeks.

To register for a box, visit VNOC’s recently revamped website at vneoc.org.

“Our website is now an important community outreach tool with updated information on a nearly daily basis,” said Hewins. “If you visit our website, you can ask for help or find ways to help us.”

Founded in 1985, VNOC provides basic food and shelter, housing, advocacy, counseling, peer support, case management, employment and education to veterans and their families throughout Essex, Middlesex and Barnstable Counties in Massachusetts and Rockingham County in New Hampshire.