Our Leadership

Board of Directors

John Niekrash, President & Co-Founder – John Niekrash has been a commercial lobsterman for over 35 years and is retired from spirits industry. Niekrash also founded CORE-Gives, a non-profit organization that assists employees in the hospitality industry with children who have life-threatening medical conditions. To date, CORE (Children Of Restaurant Employees) has raised over $600,000 and helped numerous families across the country.

Marc Harrell – Vice President of Niantic, CT is Captain and Engineer of the State of Connecticut Research Vessel JOHN DEMPSEY.  Marc is a recent USCG veteran, following more than a decade of service that encompassed tours of duty at sea, in the air and on-shore, most recently as a C-130 aircraft crew member at the International Ice Patrol in New London, Connecticut. He co-founded Mystic Oyster Farms with the 37 ft vessel he received from Work Vessels for Vets for his oyster and kelp aquaculture business.  He actively helps by mentoring and assisting fellow vets.

John P. Isenburg, Treasurer of Groton, CT joined the board in 2022.  A retired stockbroker, John spent his career in financial management at top Wall Street listed firms, retiring as a Senior VP of Morgan Stanley.   He is a co-founde of the Bank of Western Massachusetts (now Chittenden Bank).  He has an avid interest in sports and was co-owner of the Springfield Indians Hockey Club. He is an avid golfer and follows UNC sports and the Red Sox.

Cathy Dow-Royer, Secretary of Groton, CT joined the board in 2022.  Cathy has an extensive professional career in occupational therapy, both as a practitioner and educator.  She retired as Director and Professor of the Occupational Therapy Program at Western New England University.  Her teaching and research have included the role of OT in treatment of polytrauma in veterans.  She is a golfer and plays USTA Team tennis and paddle tennis.

Kathleen M. Burns, Past President & Co-Founder – Appreciative of the great educational and professional opportunities that have been afforded her throughout her career has led to her passion for the work of WVFV.  Kathleen is an independent consultant working with small businesses and non-profits to reach their potential. She spent over 25-years in the marine industry both in management and as a Board Member and Executive Director of the CT Marine Trades Association. 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, Board Member – 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. As a Board Member of WVFV, coordinates the acquisition, rehab and delivery of the organization’s boat donations.

Paul Jacey, Director of Noank, CT joined the WVFV Board of Directors in 2009, following many years as a key volunteer on the WVFV Advisory Council.  Currently, President of Components for Manufacturing, LLC, he was previously Senior Channel Manager at Stanley Black and Decker/Bostich for over 15 years.  Paul also has sales and marketing background in the SmartCard, cell phone and telecom security areas.  Paul has an engineering degree from Clarkson Univeristy and his MBA from University of Hartford.  He offers expertise and assistance in business planning and equipment needs for veteran applicants. 

Robert “Bob” Fiore, Director of Mystic, CT continues his service to fellow military veterans through his work with WVFV, assessing and mentoring veteran applications and donor offers of vessels.

Our Mission

To equip America’s returning veterans with the tools they need to start a business or pursue career education.

Work Vessels for Vets, Inc.

501(c) (3) Public Charity


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, mentors veteran applicants, writes grants and has been instrumental in raising the national profile of WVFV.  Contact her at Cathy@wvfv.org

Carolyn N. Beralderi, Executive Assistant – Social Networking expert and newsletter specialist, she keeps us up to date with the web and all that is electronic. Contact her at News@wvfv.org

In Memoriam

Rick Crolius (b.1943-d.2023) Board Member Emeritus.  Rick was a passionate original member of WVFV who earned our Patriot Star Award for 15 years of service to our mission.  He served in U.S. Navy in Vietnam Era as 3rd Class Petty Officer (SKPO3).  Volunteered as a National Ski Patroller, eastern Division from 1976-1999. Patrolman with senior qualification, mountaineering, EMT, & Avalanche qualifications  & national appointment #5200.  Patrol Leader, CT Regional Director, Asst. Divisional Director for New England, Mid Atlantic.  American Red Cross Senior Instructor.  Began volunteering with Work Vessels for Vets in 2009 by promoting annual fundraisers.  We hope he is fishing, sailing and spending time with “Bear” his significant other, a 100lb black Labrador and all his other canine family in the great beyond.