Outreach Update

With the news of the pandemic on the rise once again and winter quickly approaching, Veterans Northeast Outreach Center continues to keep our doors open and services available for any local Veteran seeking support and assistance.  We are proud that we never had to close our doors throughout the COVID 19 pandemic since the first restrictions were put in place in March 2020.  We continue to service all Veterans’ needs including housing, financial assistance, and food distribution. 

VNEOC has always contributed to reducing food insecurity among our Veterans with our twice-weekly food pantry held at our Service Center in Haverhill.  Seeing the numbers of recipients increasing during the pandemic, we focused on efforts outside our local Haverhill population. In December 2019, we partnered with the Accidental Foodbank to bring a wider variety of foods and staples to our veterans.  In March, we were given the opportunity to partner with Mass Military Support Foundation, Inc. to distribute the Vital Food Boxes they were so successfully distributing at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.  For many Veterans in the Merrimack Valley and North Shore area, the trip to Foxboro was not an option, and we provided them with the ability to access this invaluable program. We also partnered with local food distributors and farms to provide supplemental items such as bread, dairy, eggs, fruit and produce.

Beginning March 27th, on alternating Wednesdays we have been conducting contact free drive through food distributions in Haverhill and Danvers. In October, we added a third site in Manchester by the Sea, and we have recently received a request to bring the distribution to southern NH.  Each week, we have been assisting 40-50 elderly Veterans, Veterans with families, and Veterans with health and financial issues, and the recent weeks have only seen the numbers increasing. 

Last month, on October 7th, VNEOC distributed the 1,000th box at our Haverhill site.  To put that in perspective, each box contains food for two people for two weeks, or 84 servings. In seven months, 84,000 servings of food were distributed to local Veterans and families. As we noted at the time, the 1,000th box was not a celebration, but a sobering look at the growing need in the local community.

We are uniquely positioned to be able to reduce some of the daily stress and hardship of providing a basic need and affect Veterans lives in a positive way and are fortunate to have the opportunity to do so in partnership with the Mass Military Support Foundation.

Recently, we were again offered an opportunity with Mass Military Support Foundation to distribute boxes from the USDA Farmers to Families program.  These are 35-pound boxes containing perishable food items including produce, fruit, butter, eggs, a gallon of milk, cheese and other dairy, and 4 ½ pounds of meats.  We were challenged with distributing 1,000 boxes per week for 5 weeks.  A daunting task, but the first week the boxes were delivered Tuesday morning and the last box was picked up Friday morning.   By the fifth week, the truck was empty by Thursday morning – 2 and ½ days.  We report this not to marvel at the efficiency, but to point out the local need is even larger than we knew.  Of these 1,000 boxes, all were distributed to local Veterans, VSOs, and Veteran agencies with the exception of approximately 300 boxes delivered to a local food pantry.  This food pantry reports, according to their surveys, they have at least 110 Veterans coming through their line each week. 

To put this in perspective, each box weighs approximately 35 pounds.   We distributed 5,040 boxes over the past 5 weeks, or 176,400 pounds (88.2 tons!) of perishable food.  Pricing the contents of each box was roughly $58.00, which equals $292,320 of food, over a quarter million dollars of food, to just the local Merrimack Valley Veteran community. 

Although the Food Distribution is a productive and effective program, the added benefit of events such as these is that it allows us to reach into the community to Veterans who have never previously come forward to ask for assistance. With our interaction and presence in this capacity, we have been able to connect many Veterans with other services that they may have not known were available, and the resulting cases have been life changing.  Whether from a gas card or winter clothing, to being able to connect a Veteran to Healthcare, Disability Benefits, or Housing…the importance of the initial connection cannot be underestimated. The logistics of running the drive through distributions and perishable food distribution are a large undertaking for an agency of our size.  We could not possibly be successful without many partners and volunteers to help us in all phases of the operations. We would like to recognize:

  1. Northern Essex Community College
  2. North Shore Community College
  3. Eagle Leasing Company
  4. Haverhill AMVETS – Post #147
  5. American Legion – Amaral Bailey Post
  6. CNA Stores
  7. Accidental Food Bank
  8. Fantini Bakery
  9. Bonnano Farms
  10. Shaheen Brothers Distributing

The selfless volunteers who dedicated many hours, in all kinds of weather, to ensure the Veterans are served.

The VSO community who picked up and delivered boxes to the Veterans in their towns and communities including Gloucester, Beverly, Salem, Lynn, Danvers, Wilmington, Dracut, Lawrence, Haverhill, Amesbury, Georgetown, No. Andover, Tewksbury, and more. 

The support of our local representatives, including Sen. Diana DiZoglio, Rep. Linda Dean Campbell, Rep. Andy Vargas, Rep. James Kelcourse, among others. 

Despite our best efforts over the past months, there are still Veterans that are going unserved and unnoticed in our communities.  Veterans Northeast Outreach Center is asking for your assistance in:

1). Volunteering to help at our food distribution locations;

2). Donating to our programs to ensure that we can serve these Veterans;

3). Reaching out to Veterans you know that may need support and tell them about VNEOC.

We appreciate YOUR help in continuing to support our efforts to serve the veteran community.  We cannot do what we do without your help.  Remember, you can support us also by letting your local Representatives and Senators know that you believe our mission is critical so we leave no Veteran behind.

To learn more about donating and volunteer opportunities, contact Gail Hewins at ghewins@vneoc.org or John Ford at jford@vneoc.org.  You can also call us at 978-372-3626. 

                                                          Thank you!    

                                                          The VNEOC Outreach Team

Innovative Podcast Series Explores Veteran Issues

Innovative Podcast Series Explores Veteran Issues

Having helped thousands of veterans secure and maintain housing in Massachusetts since 1985, Veterans Northeast Outreach Center (VNEOC) launched the podcast, Voices of VNEOC, earlier this year to shed light on other related issues.

“Housing is a big part of what we do, but it is absolutely not all we do,” said VNEOC’s John Ford, who initially pitched the idea of the podcast series to Jordan Rich of Chart Productions.

Having kept listeners company during their commutes for years as morning drive host for Boston stations like WRKO and WSSH-FM, Rich said he did not need much convincing.

“I have always been a big supporter of veterans, so this project seemed like an important way to demonstrate this commitment to address serious issues affecting our veterans,” he said.

Jordan Rich

These issues include mental health, food insecurity and suicide, all of which have been addressed in the first two episodes of Voices for VNEOC.

“This is a hard-hitting series that looks at the reasons why some veterans struggle after their military service,” explained Ford, who said VNEOC also serves southern NH. “Our hope is to educate the general public on why veterans need our support.”

To that end, Ford said VNEOC recently launched a year-end fundraising campaign, “Voices for Veterans,” which he hopes will not only raise money, but awareness.

“With proper support within a clinical framework, we can help veterans get their lives squared away and become self-sufficient, which is VNEOC’s mission,” he said. 

The ongoing pandemic, however, has made this mission more difficult.

“Revenues are down, expenses are up — this is a very challenging time for not just veterans, but our staff,” said Ford. “We are working as lean as we possibly can, but we are in a financially challenging position right now and need help.”

Rich said he hopes Voices of VNEOC, distributed by Fast Twitch Media, can help propel “Voices for Veterans.”

“VNEOC is an incredible organization,” he said. “I hope our podcast shows their commitment to our veterans and that they are worthy of community support.”

Serving southern NH and northeastern MA, including MetroWest and the Cape, VNEOC provides basic food and housing, advocacy, counseling, peer support, case management, employment and education to veterans and their families. 

To subscribe to Voices of VNEOC, or support “Voices for Veterans, click here.

Veterans Northeast Outreach Center (VNEOC) launches Voices for Veterans Campaign

Veterans Northeast Outreach Center (VNEOC) launches Voices for Veterans Campaign

Serving southern NH and northeastern MA, including MetroWest and the Cape, Veterans Northeast Outreach Center (VNEOC) has launched Voices for Veterans to help bridge funding gaps that result from COVID-19.

“The pandemic has stressed our entire funding model with money that had been earmarked for us instead diverted to other areas of need in the communities we serve,” said VNEOC’s John Ford, director, outreach & development. “Historically, we have never formally asked for assistance from the communities we serve, but that is just not sustainable.”

The fundraising goal for Voices for Veterans is $100,000 by the end of December, 2020.

“The need is urgent, which is why we have launched this campaign, which includes GivingTuesday on December 1,” he added. “Our hope is to create a synergy among community members where individual gifts serve as leverage to encourage others.”

Founded in 1985, VNEOC provides basic food and housing, advocacy, counseling, peer support, case management, employment and education to veterans and their families. These programs and services, explained Ford, are part of “a comprehensive approach aimed at self-sufficiency.”

“The veterans we serve are in transition from unstable to stable environments,” Ford said. “We offer a lot of support in the beginning of their journey with us, but then scale it back through time until they are able to manage their daily lives on their own.”

According to Rachel Hagen, who manages VNEOC’s Transition in Place (TIP) program, the agency’s services are designed to address root causes of the issues that have destabilized veterans’ lives. VNEOC’s services, she explained, work only when participants are motivated to succeed.

“We do not offer handouts,” she said. “In my program, for instance, our role is to help veterans set goals and develop the skills needed to achieve them.”

As veterans  progress through TIP, they assume more of the costs associated with their housing. 

“They then transition out of the program,” she said.

In looking ahead, Ford said he hopes that a public ask for support will help “rally the communities” served by VNEOC.

“We can’t forget our veterans, many of whom face a complex array of circumstances when they return to civilian life ” he said. “They served us, so we must do all we can to serve them. We need their voices to ‘be heard,’ which is our campaign’s rallying cry.”

To contribute to Voices for Veterans click here.

Massachusetts Military Support Foundation to supply food boxes to local veteran communities

Massachusetts Military Support Foundation to supply food boxes to local veteran communities

On Tuesday, September 29, Massachusetts Military Support Foundation (MMSFI) will deliver 1,000 cases of perishable food, including fruit, vegetables, dairy, meat and liquid eggs, to Veterans Northeast Outreach Center  for distribution to local veteran communities.

Funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the program will continue for 4 weeks, possibly 12, and will serve veterans located in the North Shore, Merrimack Valley and southern New Hampshire. Food will be distributed at 57 South Hunt Road, Amesbury, MA.  

The food is part of MMSFI’s FOOD 4VETS program, which has hosted “pop-up” Empowerment Centers throughout the region since the onset of the pandemic.

“MMSFI has taken the lead in meeting the needs of veterans during this pandemic,” said Gail Hewins of Veterans Northeast Outreach Center (VNEOC). “Our role is to help with logistics and making connections to as many local VSOs, veteran agencies, or veteran-related organizations as possible.”

To learn more about the program, contact John Ford at 978-972-1905 or Gail Hewins at 978-891-7639. 

MMSFI’s mission is to provide programs, services and goods that help satisfy critical needs and enhance the well-being and quality of life for veterans, active-duty military and their families in Massachusetts. To learn about MMSFI, visit mmsfi.org.

We Care Charity, 411 Cares and others ‘serve’ the VNEOC community

We Care Charity, 411 Cares and others ‘serve’ the VNEOC community

Helping veterans either transition from homelessness to permanent housing or stabilize their current situation, Veterans Northeast Outreach Center (VNEOC) has itself been assisted by fellow local nonprofit, We Care Charity.

“They helped provide thousands of meals for some of our veterans hit the hardest by the pandemic,” said VNEOC’s John Ford.

According to Shefali Kalyani, executive director of We Care Charity in Salem, NH, their support of VNEOC represents just the tip of a proverbial iceberg.

“During COVID-19, we are making sandwich bags for 7 shelters and have provided more than 36,000 meals via our brown bag lunch program,” she said. “We also provide food for about 3,000 people at 18 shelters, 4 soup kitchens and 2 group homes in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.”

She said such efforts have largely been supported by volunteers.

“We cannot do what we do without our volunteers,” said Kalyani, who said daily meal deliveries to VNEOC have included a sandwich, snack, fresh fruit and juice box.

“They often also came with a hand-written note or decorated bag, courtesy of these same volunteers,” she added.

Expressing support at the collaboration with We Care Charity, Ford says other community-minded agencies, including 411 Cares and Tufts Health Plan, have also stepped in to offer support.

“411 Cares has been helping provide meals for our veterans since May,” he said. “Between Shefali, Dee O’Neill of 411 Cares and the support of Tufts Health Plan, too, we are all working to collaborate more effectively to reduce the need for our respective services in the first place…VNEOC is thinking big picture.”

Ford is not the only one to think big picture either.

“Our vision is to connect the public, private and nonprofit sectors,” said O’Neill, who has made arrangements with locally owned Fantini Bakery, Chris’s Farm Stand and Benedetti’s Deli to provide assistance. “We are working on agreements with other local businesses to contribute as well .”

Serving MetroWest and 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.

To learn more about We Care Charity, visit wecarecharity.org. To learn more about 411 Cares, visit facebook.com/411cares.

Patriot Nissan “drives” successful fundraiser

Patriot Nissan “drives” successful fundraiser

Held July 15 through August 31, Patriot Nissan’s Service Drive Five for VNEOC helped raise more than $6,500 to support veterans served by 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.

Matt Drohan, general manager at Patriot Nissan in Salem, said supporting veterans holds “great personal meaning” for him. 

“I served in the Navy and have had good fortune in my life with my career, but I know many others who have served in the military have not,” he said. “We thank VNEOC for all they do and all the businesses and individuals who participated in this event.”

One of these businesses matched the first $3,000 raised during the 6-week long event.

“I can’t thank our anonymous donor enough or Patriot Nissan for their financial contribution, their time in planning the event and working through all kinds of logistics with us,” said VNEOC’s John Ford. “Local businesses donated for weekly raffles, Patriot Nissan created videos, promoted us — it was an incredible effort.”

During the event, Patriot Nissan made a $5 donation to VNEOC for every customer who serviced his/her vehicle there. Donations were also gathered through a DipJar, which provided customers with a way to add a donation to VNEOC when paying their service bill.

In looking to the future, Ford said Patriot Nissan has committed to future partnerships, too. Their support, he noted, will “change lives.”

“We help veterans get back and stay on their feet,” he said. “They become self-sustaining and invested community members — Patriot Nissan is now part of VNEOC’s story.”

To learn more about the collaboration with Patriot Nissan, click here https://patriotnissan.com/service-drive-five-for-VNEOC