Navy Vet Harding with Sampson's Shadow


MYSTIC, CT and CLEVELAND, TX “What a thrill to see a magnificent horse help injured veterans recover in an equine therapy program,” exclaimed Cathy Cook, Executive Director at Work Vessels for Vets. “We are delighted to match the inkind donation of a therapy trained horse valued at $12,000 with a new agritherapy program in Cleveland, Texas! The donor is happy, the veteran awardee is happy, the injured veterans are happy and the horse is happy!”

“My horse mentor came to me after several talks about my goals on my farm here and told me she wanted to donate Sampson to be a therapy horse here,” remarked Ramona Harding, a US Navy veteran who sustained injuries in her military career.   “The donor needed to partner with a nonprofit to conclude the transaction, and I turned to Work Vessels for Vets who responded immediately!  Sampson’s Shadow has the perfect disposition for this work and has been specifically trained to be calm and responsive to veterans with PTSD, TBI and other injuries.   Gypsy Vanners are particularly good therapeutic horses because of their gentle nature and Sampson will be a critical addition Pine Shadows Farm as veterans enjoy a therapeutic agricultural environment and equine therapy program.  Giving back to other veterans heals us all,” says Harding. “Sampson is a magnificent and unique breed Gypsy Vanner horse. He will be utilized as therapy horse for myself and my fellow veterans on our Texas agritherapy farm. We plan on acquiring a couple other horses with therapeutic personalities. We also plan on having a few goats and a guard llama, all with personalities suitable to be therapy livestock. We will also be doing gardening and some classes on growing vegetables. A regular drum circle and poetry jams. Samson will also help with being a part of our future organic gardening projects.

Read more news in our January 2020 Newsletter



Navy veteran jumpstarts her unique mosaic landscape business with in-kind gift of supplies donated to Work Vessels for Vets by Riverhead Building Supply of Niantic, CT

2019 Vet MONTOYA and partner receive Riverhead donationMYSTIC, CT – DECEMBER 2019 – “We love it when a plan comes together,” exclaimed Cathy Cook, Executive Director of Work Vessels for Vets, the Mystic, CT based charity that awards equipment to injured veterans who are starting a business. “We matched an in-kind donation of $5000 of unneeded landscape pavers for mosaics from Riverhead Building Supply of Niantic with the needs of a Waterford veteran who is starting a unique business "Pieceful Connections." It is a landscape design company focusing on cognitive gardens.”

“I want to teach our children the importance of sustainability and stewardship. When I learned what nature does to help create more complex brain structures in young children, I realized that this is something that needs to be shared,” said Navy veteran Annette Montoya of Waterford, CT.

The large donation to Work Vessels for Vets was delivered to Navy veteran Anette Montoya this week. This is a win-win-win transaction for the donor, the charity and the veteran awardee. The pavers were leftover from UBS when Riverhead bought the Niantic, CT company. These items are not part of the Riverhead product line and they wanted to utilize the space where the pavers were stored.  


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Injured Army vet thought his combat injuries dashed his dream of opening a construction business. Now he has started a woodworking business with adaptive equipment from Work Vessels for Vets

“Like many veterans with service-connected disabilities, I just wanted to get on with my life after leaving the military. I had an initial dream of starting a large contracting business, but found my TBI, seizures and back injuries were too severe to allow such a huge endeavor. Initially, this was devastating to me,” said Army Infantry Captain Justin Morseth of Bloomington, Indiana. He received the Bronze Star with Combat Valor Device “V” for his service in Iraq in 2003. But he also returned with PTSD and TBI and had trouble readjusting to daily life — his days and nights plagued by nightmares and memories of battle trauma. 

“Now I have found a way to still BUILD, but do so on a smaller, more creative scale. I have found renewed hope and am so excited! Thank you thank you thank you, Work Vessels for Vets!!   This is such an incredible gift. I can’t thank you enough!” Capt. Morseth has donated these wooden items for a recent Auction with proceeds to Work Vessels for Vets. They were sold for $1750! Thanks, Justin!      



Volunteer Awarded "The Patriot Star"

 Rick Crolius Honored for his Service to Work Vessels for Vets at “Hands UP for Vets” 11th Annual Fundraiser

Yes, there were tears. Richmond “Rock and Roll Rick” Crolius, US Navy veteran, of Groton Long Point, was stunned when a crowd of hundreds cheered as Work Vessels for Vets President and founder John Niekrash presented the organization’s cherished “PATRIOT STAR AWARD” to honor Rick’s dedication and deep commitment to veterans. 

Work Vessels for Vets volunteer Rick Crolius helped design the Patriot Star Award eleven years ago, and he was more than surprised to receive this honor.  The Patriot Star bears the embroidered star from a US Flag flown over Fallujah, Iraq.  It recognizes the extraordinary efforts of individuals who are American Patriots helping our military veterans. 

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MYSTIC, CT  CDR Scott “Barney” Barnes, USN (ret) retired from the Navy in 2006 to establish Happy Homestead Farm in Florida’s panhandle only to have Hurricane Michael destroy his fields and farm equipment in 2018. Work Vessels for Vets, headquartered in Mystic, CT was particularly connected with this veteran who had been stationed at the nearby US Navy Submarine Base in Groton.  It took nearly six months of searching to find an affordable tractor with implements to get Barney’s farm up and running again.   At last, the long search was fruitful with a $7000 grant from WVFV, a personal contribution from Barnes, and the generous discount from the retiring local owner.   Happy Homestead Farms will soon be back at full production of Certified Naturally Grown vegetables, mushrooms, cut flowers and worm casting products in the Florida panhandle markets.   

Work Vessels for Vets pools grant from VETSAID with matching funds from Farmer-Veteran Coalition & The Semper Fi Fund to purchase $30,000 adapted forklift for double amputee

2019 Forklift for double amputee 600 x 400 2Double amputee veteran awarded specialized forklift for commercial beekeeping.  

Work Vessels for Vets, Inc. announces the award of an adapted forklift to a severely injured Army veteran of 4 combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The $30,000 specialized forklift was purchased in collaboration with The Farmer-Veteran Coalition and The Semper Fi Fund and was presented in California recently, just in time for the bees to get to work in the almond groves.

After stepping on an IED in Afghanistan and losing both of his legs, Army Staff Sergeant (SSG) Alejandro Jauregui had to find a new passion to pursue.  Working in the fields since childhood in a small agricultural town in Northern California, SSG Jauregui understands the important role that honey bees play in producing healthy crops.  He started Fury Bees not long after his recovery from severe injuries.  Fury Bees began operations in March, 2015 with just 100 hives. Today, Fury Bees has over 500 hives that are rented out to the almond, fruit tree and other growers in the fertile Salinas Valley of California.

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Disabled USAF Vet presented with SUV as sailor's legacy

Family of late USN Capt. Frank “Mick” O’Beirne of Mystic, CT present his 2018 Toyota 4 Runner to Work Vessels for Vets

SGT Tom Bryant of Gouverneur, NY awarded the vehicle for his program to train and transport certified veteran welding trainees into businesses

Bryant SUV 2019 Copy

A presentation ceremony of a 2018 SUV to USAF vet from NY was held at the offices of Work Vessels for Vets, Inc. at 43 Pequot Avenue, Mystic at 5:30pm on Thursday March 28, 2019.  This presentation brings to $70,000 the total value of WVFV awards to injured veterans since January 1, 2019.

      “Leaving a legacy from a veteran… for a veteran,” said WVFV Director Cathy Cook.  “We thank the family of the late Capt. Frank O’Beirne, USN (ret) for this most generous donation.  His legacy of military and community service above self will live on through Sgt Bryant’s program to train veterans to be certified welders.” 

      Work Vessels for Vets, Inc,, the Mystic-based charity that equips America’s injured veterans with the tools needed for self-employment, received the donation of a nearly new 2018 Toyota 4 Runner SUV in memory of the late Frank “Mick” O’Beirne, Captain, USN (ret) who recently passed away.  His widow, Kathleen attended the presentation.

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RITZ UTV 1.2019“THANK YOU again for all of your help with getting a UTV for my farm.  I am grateful beyond words!”  exclaimed Captain (US Army ret.) Frank Ritz of Barnardsville, North Carolina.   These words of appreciation are all that is expected by Work Vessels for Vets each time the all-volunteer charity gives equipment to a new veteran-owned business. 

    Gather Heritage Farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina has been a dream of Army Captain Frank Ritz and his family since his injuries in Iraq earned a Bronze Star but resulted in 100% disability rating and medical retirement from the Army.   His passion for fellow veterans coping with war-related conditions, coupled with the therapeutic capabilities of hard, yet rewarding work on a farm forms his plan to be an incubator for veterans and also to help those moving from active military service.  

      “Captain Ritz’s injuries made it difficult to manage his acreage.  Walking long distances, up and down his land in the foothills outside Asheville, NC was taking a heavy toll on his bruised body.   The one piece of equipment he needed to realize his dream and to jump start his plan to offer agri-therapy to fellow injured veterans was an all-terrain vehicle,” said Cathy Cook, Executive Director of Work Vessels for Vets of Mystic, CT. 

     Cook added, “I am always amazed at the goodwill of Americans.  When we found a suitable used UTV at Liberty Cycle in Hinesville, Georgia, the owner John Jenkinson immediately discounted the Polaris UTV, and then offered to drive the trailer himself to deliver it over 250 miles away!  It arrived last week to an overwhelmed and very grateful Captain Ritz.”

Click here to see video    UTV from Work Vessels for Vet arrives to excited Capt Ritz in NC  


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