How We Started

Work Vessels for Veterans was started in 2008 after John Niekrash, a Noank, CT lobsterman heard the story of a wounded warrior's dedication and service after having been severely injured in Iraq. John decided that his boat that had served him well for seventeen years should go to someone who had served his country. Our first "vessel," Krasher I was refurbished and donated for commercial fishing in Narragansett Bay, RI to a USMC Reservist who served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and a legacy was born.


Board Of Directors

John Niekrash, Chairman & Co-Founder - John Niekrash has been a commercial lobsterman for over 20 years and is also employed by Proximo Spirits, a New York-based importer of distilled spirits and a strong supporter of WVFV. Niekrash also founded CORE-Gives, a non-profit organization which assists employees in the hospitality industry with children who have life-threatening medical conditions. To date, CORE (Children Of Restaurant Employees) has raised over $400,000 and helped numerous families across the country.

Kathleen M. Burns, President & Co-Founder - Appreciative of the great educational and professional opportunities that have afforded her throughout her career has led to her passion for the work of WVFV, where she oversees the internal workings of the foundation. Kathleen's other affiliations include her current position as Executive Director of the Connecticut Marine Trades Association, Vice Chair of the Thames America's Cup Committee as well as positions on numerous other local committees and organizations. A graduate of Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, she transitioned into the marine industry from a successful advertising and marketing career.

Dan Burns, Co-Founder - Together with his wife Kathleen, Dan co-founded WVFV and oversaw refurbishment of many boats for veterans as manager of Noank Shipyard and Seaport Marine in CT. A native of Hamburg, NY Dan long served in managerial positions throughout the shopping center industry for over twenty-five years until he transitioned his vast property management experience into his passion for boating. Dan currently serves on the Board of the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce, chairs the annual Taste of Mystic and as a Board Member of WVFV, coordinates the acquisition, rehab and delivery of the organization's boat donations.

Hon. Catherine W. Cook, Executive Director — Former state senator from eastern CT, Cathy brings her experience and connections from a 22 year career in public service to WVFV. Her work as Executive Assistant for Veterans' Affairs to Governor M. Jodi Rell offers the ability to assist veterans with applications to WVFV as well as referrals to other veteran resources. She runs the office, write grants and has been instrumental in raising the national profile of WVFV.