Food 4 Vets helps local ex-military members

MIKE LABELLA/Staff photoInspecting boxes of food before distributing them to veterans are, from left, Alberto Gonzalez of Veterans Northeast Outreach Center, Robert Scott of Veterans Northeast, Richard Guilmette of Post 8 Andover American Legion and Gail Hewins of Veterans Northeast. They are at a drive-through site in the parking lot of Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill.

Area military veterans who are uncomfortable shopping at a supermarket at this time or who are running short on money to buy food are receiving assistance from the Food 4 Vets food distribution program.

About 75 local veterans took advantage of a drive-through distribution held recently in the parking lot of Northern Essex Community College.

Hosted by Veterans Northeast Outreach in Haverhill, distributions will continue to be held at NECC every other Wednesday from 10 a.m. to noon in the college's Hartleb Technology Center parking lot until the coronavirus pandemic has eased. The next distribution is May 6 at NECC.

Gail Hewins, outreach coordinator for Veterans Northeast, said the Food 4 Vets program provides boxed food kits through the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation.

"We ask that veterans preregister for the next distribution," Hewins said. "If you have problems registering, call us at 978-372-3626."

Veterans can preregister at, under one of the distribution sites noted on that website.

Ralph Basiliere, chairman of the city's Vietnam Memorial Commission, recently picked up a box of food for a Korean war veteran in Haverhill who no longer drives.

"He's having a tough time and needed a little support, which the Food 4 Vets program was able to provide him," Basiliere said. "This is exactly what veterans organizations should be doing ... banding together to help one another out and I applaud them for the efficiency in doing so."

Each box given to a veteran includes canned goods, non-perishable food items and personal hygiene products.

"It should be enough to last a family of two for two weeks," Hewins said.

John Ford, service center and development director for Veterans Northeast, said the distribution was enhanced by donations of fresh dairy products and produce from Shaheen Bros. of Amesbury. Eagle Leasing donated the use of storage trailers at the Danvers and Haverhill distribution sites.

"Whatever non-perishable items didn't get distributed are stored in the trailer for the next distribution," Ford said.

Various veterans groups sent volunteers to assist with the distribution. The groups include Post 8 Andover American Legion, the Lawrence Lodge of Elks, area veterans services offices and volunteers from Northern Essex Community College.

"We received many positive comments, including from some elderly veterans who said it saves them from having to make a trip to the supermarket while some veterans told us they were out of work and short on food and short on money," Hewins said. "A number of veterans were unable to show up, so they sent someone in their place."

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