Life is Too Short

Last Friday, we had our first formal get-together and cook-out. It was great to have most of the VNEOC team together as we continue to practice social distancing.

We took this time to reflect and remember our late Executive Director Command Master Chief John Ratka. Those of you who attended his wake received a memorial card, which read “LIFE IS TOO SHORT.”

Life is too short to live with regrets so love the people who treat you right. Forget about those who do not. Believe everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said life would be easy. They just promised it would most likely be worth it…

Every employee here plays an important role in changing the lives of those going through difficult times. Sometimes it can be as simple as a smile, a gesture, or word of recognition. More often, though, it will require time, patience and commitment.

We here at VNEOC are changing the lives of those who served our Country in defense of Freedom. We owe it to ourselves and those we serve to continue to improve and strive to perfect our lives, mentally, physically and spiritually. We do this, and we will always be prepared to improve the lives of others and provide them with opportunities and upward mobility. It won’t be easy, but I promise, it most likely will be worth it.

VNEOC has been changing the lives of Veterans for 35 years. John Ratka spent nearly 20 years working to improve this organization and increase our ability to change the lives of the Veterans we serve. His tireless dedication to increase the services and resources for our veterans was remarkable and we the leadership team remain committed to his agenda.

No one is more committed to improving this organization than our Supportive Services Department Director, Master Sergeant, Scot Forbes US Airforce (Ret), a Veteran who saw a chance and took it. Originally hired as a Case Manager for our Transition in Place (TIP) program, Scott Forbes would quickly display his leadership qualities and advance to Program Manager. His situational awareness and exceptional organizational skills quickly transformed TIP. It wasn’t long before his outstanding deeds would propel him to a well-deserved upper management position as Supportive Services Department Director.

Scot Forbes’ deeds are well documented and widely recognized. His commitment to this organization was recognized and greatly appreciated by the Board of Directors. They realized that his professional leadership helped preserve the unique requirements and professional goals of the organization and the Veterans we serve. On Friday July 31st, the Board of Directors ceremoniously promoted him to the position of “Chief Operations Officer”

Congratulations Chief Operations Officer Scot Forbes! We look forward to a highly successful career at VNEOC and many more accomplishments and accolades.

There were many other staff members who have displayed outstanding dedication to our organization and the Veterans we serve during this COVID-19 pandemic, and I look forward to sharing their accomplishments and recognition in my next posting.

Jordan Rich and Chart Productions to launch ‘Voices of VNEOC’

Jordan Rich and Chart Productions to launch ‘Voices of VNEOC’

Having kept listeners company during their commutes for years as morning drive host for Boston stations like WRKO and WSSH-FM, Jordan Rich is launching a new podcast series with Veterans Northeast Outreach Center (VNEOC).

Titled, Voices of VNEOC, the Chart Productions podcast is available on Apple, Google, Stitcher, Deezer and other platforms.

“Throughout my life, I have been an ardent supporter of veterans causes,” said Rich, whose current podcast, On Mic with Jordan Rich, reaches an international audience. “My father was in the army stationed in Germany in the early 1950’s, so my interest in this cause is personal, too.”

Serving Essex, Middlesex and Barnstable Counties (MA) and Rockingham and Hillsborough Counties (NH), VNEOC provides basic food and housing, advocacy as an Accredited VSO, counseling, peer support, case management, employment and education to veterans and their families.

As for its composition, Rich said each Voices of VNEOC podcast will be in magazine format and last approximately 30 minutes.

“Each episode will feature several short segments on different aspects of the work performed by VNEOC,” he explained. “We are going to reveal the honest to goodness stories of veterans and how their lives are improving. It will be a first-class production.”

Rich credited colleague Dan Thibeault of Fast Twitch Media for bringing this and other Chart Productions podcasts to “the cloud.”  

“Dan handles the development of the podcast RSS feeds, artwork, launch and networking of podcasts,” he said. “His contributions are crucial.”

According to VNEOC’s John Ford, the opportunity to work with Rich and Thibeault is “remarkable.”

“I especially love the chance to share the stories of some incredible men and women who have served our nation,” he said. “I cannot think of a better person than Jordan Rich to help tell these stories.”

To learn more about Chart Productions, which Rich founded in 1978 with Ken Carberry, visit

VNEOC teams up with 411 Cares, Tufts Health Plan and others

VNEOC teams up with 411 Cares, Tufts Health Plan and others

As director of the service center and development at Veterans Northeast Outreach Center (VNEOC), John Ford can often be found in the community, a role that often leads to unexpected opportunities to better serve veterans.

Opportunities sometimes come to Ford, who said Dee O’Neil, co-founder of 411 Cares with Michael Malvers, came into VNEOC’s service center in Haverhill this past spring looking for ways to help.

“We started talking, and it became clear she could help us with an immediate need for food for some of the veterans we serve,” he explained. “She started connecting us with all kinds of different resources and the relationship has blossomed since then.”

To help VNEOC address food insecurity issues with some of its veterans, O’Neil said she contacted Tufts Health Plan with whom she had recently formed a relationship.

“After learning about VNEOC’s need for food, I reached out to Tufts Health Plan and Daphnee Alva, as she works closely with the local community,” said O’Neill. “Daphnee and I had already collaborated to help other local agencies. Given their reach in the community, I thought they could be a great resource for VNEOC as well.”

That phone call, said Ford, has resulted in thousands of lunch for veterans. The food has been provided by We Care Charity.

“Dee, Daphnee and We Care Charity helped us during one of our most difficult times,” explained Ford, who said the pandemic caused numerous business closures that directly affected many of their veterans.

“It’s not as if our people were looking for a hand-out, because they weren’t,” he added. “What our veterans needed was help at a time when all of us were reeling due to COVID. I can’t thank 411 Cares enough for connecting us with Tufts Health Plan and We Care Charity.”

Noting many people see them as “just a health plan,” Alva said Tufts Health Plan is “so much more than that.”

“We are in the community and invested in the betterment of the people,” she said.

Alva is a member of Tufts Health Plan’s Senior Care Options team, working with Massachusetts residents over 65 who are eligible for both Medicare and MassHealth. In addition to collaborating with VNEOC, Alva said other recent initiatives include feeding more than 600 seniors across Massachusetts.

“We are involved in a range of activities across the state to help local residents in need,” she said.

Examples include creating care packages that include a mask and hand sanitizer, donating face masks and shields to local nursing homes for their staff and providing gift cards to area grocery stores.

“Tufts Health Plan’s mission is to improve the health and wellness of the diverse communities we serve,” said Alva. “We are doing all we can to meet the community where they are and help them during this crisis.”

In reflecting on the emerging relationships among VNEOC, 411 Cares, Tufts Health Plan and We Care Charity Ford said that “one thing is clear.”

“Collaborations like this are essential if we are going to meet the needs of our communities,” he said. “None of us can work in silos, and I think the pandemic has reinforced the importance that we all work together. I am very thankful for organizations that are stepping up during these difficult times.”

Serving Essex, Middlesex and Barnstable Counties (MA) and Rockingham and Hillsborough Counties (NH), VNEOC provides basic food and housing, advocacy as an Accredited VSO, counseling, peer support, case management, employment and education to veterans and their families.


In following the CDC guidelines concerning limiting gatherings due to the Corona Virus, and out of concern for the health and safety of our Veteran residents, clients, guests, and staff, Veterans Northeast Outreach Center has closed our hall to the public. However, we are still open and available to assist any Veterans during this time.

Veterans or agencies having appointments or requesting information from our SSVF, Benefits, Outreach, and Employment departments are encouraged to call in to VNOC at 978 372-3626 to speak with their case manager or to get more information regarding assistance for their concerns.

We do have staff on site at 10 Reed Street, Haverhill, MA to assist any Veteran with emergency concerns, such as housing, food assistance, or other emergency supply supports.

Veterans Northeast Outreach Center is committed to staying available for the Veteran community during this time. We have limited our public interaction but are conducting business as usual in the best way we can.

Please do not hesitate to call if you have any referrals, requests, or any questions about our services.

Thank you, and stay safe

Ed Mitchell, USN (Ret.)
Executive Director

Patriot Nissan “Drives” Fund-Raising Initiative

Patriot Nissan “Drives” Fund-Raising Initiative

From the time Patriot Nissan in Salem opened in 2019, General Manager Matt Drohan said supporting veterans would be an organizational cornerstone, which has resulted in a partnership with Veterans Northeast Outreach Center (VNEOC).

Serving Essex, Middlesex and Barnstable Counties (MA) and Rockingham and Hillsborough Counties (NH), VNEOC provides basic food and housing, advocacy as an Accredited VSO, counseling, peer support, case management, employment and education to veterans and their families.

“Teaming up with the Veterans Northeast Outreach Center will enable us to serve veterans and their families in new ways,” said Drohan, who served in the U.S. Navy and with the reserves. “I have been fortunate to pursue my career in automotive, but I know other veterans from all eras have had difficulties returning to civilian life.”

Named “Patriot Nissan Service Drive Five for VNEOC,” the partnership begins with a fund-raising initiative that will run from July 15 to August 31. During this time, Patriot Nissan will make a $5 donation to VNEOC for every customer who services his/her vehicle there. Customers may also register to participate in a weekly raffle with prizes ascending in value through August.

“We will create a video vignette with interviews of VNEOC personnel for use in social media that will help tell their story, too,” he added.

According to Tom Talbott, marketing director at Patriot Nissan and the Patriot Automotive Group, the importance of the partnership with VNEOC is underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re all worried right now about the future,” he said. “If this event serves as a reminder that no matter how we’re doing that there are others who have it even tougher, then it was successful.”

Expressing appreciation for Patriot Nissan’s support, VNEOC’s John Ford said he looks forward to building “a long-lasting partnership.”

“It’s important we rally our supporters and constituencies to champion the businesses that step forward to help make a difference in our communities,” he said. “We will do all we can to promote this partnership on our website and social media, and I know Patriot Nissan will do the same.”

To learn more about Patriot Nissan, visit