WVFV assists veterans returning to the United States as they begin their civilian careers or continue their educational pursuits by donating to them the necessary start-up tools (laptops, vehicles, machinery, tools, and commercial vessels to name a few). The organization was started in 2008 with the donation of a commercial fishing boat to a returning veteran and to date has helped over 500 veterans in their transitions.
ORIGIN OF WORK VESSELS FOR VETERANS
It was guest speaker Master Sergeant Justin Clough’s story of unwavering dedication and service after having been severely injured in Iraq that left a lasting impression on John. Hearing a call to action, he decided that the boat that had served him well for seventeen years should go to someone who had served his or her country. John wanted his boat to be used to start a career or enhance a life that had been put on hold while duty called.
Work Vessels for Veterans (WVFV) was born. John wrote to the Commercial Fisheries News explaining his idea to donate the boat to a re-turning vet looking to become a professional lobsterman/fisherman. This story was picked up by numerous outlets including other industry newspapers and magazines.
John decided that the only fair way to decide upon the recipient was to donate it to the first vet who contacted him and assured him that the boat would be used not for recreation but rather as a means to make a living. Marine Reservist Richard Giguere of Rhode Island, returning from two tours in Iraq, was that man. During an April 4, 2008 launching ceremony at the Noank Shipyard, John turned over the keys to Mr. Giguere. Subsequently, Senator Joseph Lieberman presented John with his “Joe’s Heroes” award. Today, Richard is actively working the boat in Narragansett Bay, RI as well as accepting a Board position to assist the organization’s future. John now heads this growing foundation and successfully balances career, family, lobstering and philanthropy.
Mr. Ted Knapp, Director of Environmental Compliance at Anything IT, another civilian touched by the generosity of John, was the first to step forward to expand the assistance program. Working his contacts throughout the country, Mr. Knapp has donated dozens of laptop computers to returning veterans looking to start a business or to resume their educational pursuits. His energy and enthusiasm will contribute to expanding the reach of this growing organization as he has joined as President of the all-volunteer WVFV Board.
Mr. Dave Mason, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and founding member of Traffic, joined the Board as the group’s front man. At each of his concerts throughout the country, Dave has related the stories of the organization, its goals and dreams, urging his audiences to help however they can. His voice, as pure today as it ever was, now sings and speaks with a new purpose and a new hope.
Mr. Dan Burns and Ms. Kathleen Burns, General Managers of Noank Shipyard in Noank, CT, proudly partnered with their customer and friend John Niekrash from the first boat donation, helping to define the organization’s mission from its early beginnings. As they continue to lead a team of dedicated technicians who refurbish, repair and deliver boats donated to selected veterans, they continue to coordinate much of the internal and day-to-day workings of WVFV, donating Shipyard labor, use of facilities and organizational activities. The passion for the foundation has touched the entire Shipyard team all whom have donated countless hours to WVFV’s growth.
WVFV hopes to be able to assist as many returning service men and women start or re-start their careers after their military duties have been fulfilled. WVFV is also working to donate tools, vans, tractors and other “vessels” to returning veterans.