Demand outstrips food supply for veterans in need across New England

Demand outstrips food supply for veterans in need across New England

Citing a goal to provide 50,000 food kits to veterans in New England with limited access to food due to COVID-19, leadership at Massachusetts Military Support Foundation (MMSF) say their mission is in jeopardy.

“We are working with a very vulnerable population right now and the demand keeps going up,” said Don Cox, president of MMSF. “Until COVID-19, we had always addressed this need on our own, but that is not possible anymore.”

It is not possible, he said, due to institutional food supply chain issues.

“For the last 2 months, we have been relying on residential food supply chains, but that has put a tremendous amount of pressure on the entire industry,” he said. “Unless we can get some help from towns, government agencies or others, we won’t be able to meet the needs of our veterans.”

According to John Ford of Veterans Northeast Outreach Center (VNOC), one of nearly 3-dozen agencies that benefit from the work performed by MMSF, the need for inter-agency collaboration is “more crucial than ever.”

Founded in 1985, VNOC serves thousands of veterans and their families annually in Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire.

“When Don explained the situation to me, I realized VNOC and similar agencies need to help MMSF solve these larger issues,” said Ford, who has spent the past week “hunting down refrigeration units.”

“MMSF is a vital cog in the food supply chain equation for veterans across New England,” he added.

Cox agrees.

“Our industry needs access to help, too,” he said. “We are working as smart and lean as possible, but we cannot do this alone anymore.”

Since launching its COVID-19 Vital Food Kit Initiative, MMSF has packed more than 27,000 boxes for veterans.

“The story here is much bigger than the needs of just VNOC,” said Ford. “This is about our veterans and an entire industry struggling to meet a very real need. We must find a way to serve those who have served us.”

To learn more about MMSF, visit


For veterans throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire who have limited access to food due to the coronavirus, USA for Veterans and Military (USA4VETS) and Massachusetts Military Support Foundation have teamed up with Veterans Northeast Outreach Center to distribute meal boxes containing non-perishable, well balanced meals for veterans in need. Each food package contains enough food and nutritionist-developed recipes for two people for two weeks.

AutoFair Subaru “shares the love” with VNOC

AutoFair Subaru “shares the love” with VNOC

Recently, AutoFair Subaru in Haverhill presented a check for $12,750 to Veterans Northeast Outreach Center (VNOC) to support services for veterans and their families.

According to Michael Perry, general manager of AutoFair Subaru, the donation was the result of Subaru’s annual Share the Love Event in which participating retailers have donated more than $145 million to charity.

“Customers picked one of 5 local charities, and many of them chose VNOC,” he said. “It’s a wonderful program and a way for us to give back.”

He said the philosophy behind the Share the Love Event, which takes place annually in November and December, represents a core concept at their dealership and Subaru.

“We may not always do what is in our best interests for our bottom line, but we always do what is best for our customers, employees and the community,” he said. “We firmly believe in this philosophy.”

According to VNOC’s John Ford, who accepted the check behalf of the nonprofit agency, the donation has been put to immediate use.

“These unrestricted funds are so important, because we can apply them directly to services for veterans and their families, including food, household items and so much more,” he said. “Mike and his team have been supportive of our mission for years — and it means so much, especially now.”

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.

Memorial Day

Monday May 25th, Memorial Day, our Nation’s Flag will be flying at Half-Mast for part of the day. Here is the story of why – first, she will be hoisted to the peak of the Mast for an instant and then lowered to Half-Mast position in recognition of our fallen heroes. Then at Noon, the flag is raised to Full-Mast by the living, “who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue the fight for liberty and justice for all.” At 3:00 PM, there will be a National Moment of Silence. We ask that you take that moment to honor those who have served, those that are serving, and those we have lost through service.

This Memorial Day weekend will be like no other. For generations, on the last Monday in May, Veterans and fellow Patriots join together to remember and memorialize all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our great Country. For the first time since the Civil War we as grateful citizens will not be able to come together and support each other in solidarity and share stories of Americas Great Defenders of Freedom.

For our Veterans who have endured the hardship of losing a comrade, a Brother or Sister, a combat buddy, this Memorial Day will be extremely challenging. For those who have lost loved ones, family members, friends or a neighbor, this Memorial Day will be more somber and very difficult. Though there will be no parades or ceremonies this Memorial Day and we will not be with you to support you and show our appreciation, please know that our thoughts and prayers will be with you and your families.

I am confident in stating that all VNOC staff are extremely grateful for the sacrifices of our Fallen Heroes and we will never forget the cost of liberty and that we have a sacred honor to preserve it. God Bless America and all those who Defend Her!

God bless America
Land that I love
Stand beside her
And guide her
Through the night with the light from above
From the mountains
To the prairies
To the oceans
White with foam
God bless America
My home sweet home

Please take a moment of silence to remember those who have sacrificed all, and those who are willing to do so every day. We are the United States of America! May God Bless and keep you!

A Special Thank You

As the Executive Director, I have been blessed with a dedicated and professional staff and exceptional community supporters committed to caring for all those who have borne the burden, made the difficult sacrifices and suffered the wounds while serving this great Nation.

It is no accident our main office and welcome center is located at Saint Rita’s Church in Haverhill. Saint Rita has acquired the reputation, together with St. Jude, as a Saint of impossible cases. She is also the patron Saint of sterility, abuse victims, loneliness, marriage difficulties, parenthood, widows, the sick, bodily ills, and wounds.

I would like to personally thank Congresswoman Laurie Trahan and State Representative Linda Dean Campbell and their superb staff for their outstanding support and guidance. Because of their exceptional support and that provided by Secretary Francisco Urena and his dedicated staff at DVS, we at the VNOC have not only been able to maintain our intake and supportive services we have been able to increase these services for our Veterans.

During this time of uncertainty, when our Veterans are relying on us the most, our staff has increased our housing support, our transportation and food services. Our dedicated staff remains in constant contact with our Veterans to ensure all needs are met, including having all our veterans residing in our cognitive living facilities tested for COVID-19. Again, because of the dedicated VNOC staff, keeping all facilities sanitized and accommodating the social distancing, all the tests for COVID-19 were negative.

Thank you to all VNOC employees. Because of your outstanding performance throughout this pandemic our ability to deliver the invaluable supportive services to our military veterans continues uninterrupted. The VNOC remains COVID free thanks to the hard work of all VNOC employees and our partners at DVS, MEMA, VA Medical Centers, Mass Military Support Foundation and the outstanding support of our elected officials.

We at VNOC have also been blessed to have established exceptional comradery with many Community Veterans Service Officer’s, to include, the extremely dedicated Haverhill VSO Amanda Buckley. Under the leadership of Mayor James Fiorentini, VSO Amanda Buckley, and Community Development Director Andrew Hurley have provided outstanding support and resources that enabled the VNOC to continue to improve upon and increase the supportive services we provide to our local veterans.

Amanda Buckley’s service as a veteran advocate has been as exemplary as her service in the Marine Corps. We at the VNOC are extremely saddened to learn that Amanda will be leaving her position as Haverhill VSO. Though we are comforted with the knowledge that no matter where her life’s journey may take her, she will always be a strong advocate for all veterans.

“Fair winds and following seas” to Amanda Buckley and her family.

Hail and Farewell

Hail to our new Board of Directors members. We are excited to “Welcome Aboard”: Lenin Roa of Lawrence MA. Lenin is a Retired Navy Veteran and a Realtor with Coco and Early. Danielle Donohue of Methuen MA. Danielle is an Army Veteran and Director of Sober House in Methuen MA. Each of our new Board Members bring unique talent and experience that will be of great value to Team VNOC as we continue to improve upon and expand the programs and services, we provide our Veterans and their families. A Huge Farewell goes out to long time Board Member and Army Veteran, Joe Hey. Joe was born and still resides in Lawrence MA. He was instrumental to the Veterans Housing and organizational expansion provided through the late Director John Ratka. Joe’s local knowledge, insight and comradery will be greatly missed by his fellow Board Members and the entire VNOC Staff, though, we are comforted with the knowledge of his remaining on the BOD Presidents Advisory Committee. Thank you Joe for your outstanding Volunteerism.