BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Board of Directors
John Niekrash, President & 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.
Rick Crolius, Vice President - Retired human resources executive from aerospace industry. 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, & Avalance qualifications & national appointment #5200. Patrol Leader, CT Regional Director, Asst. Divisional Director for New England, Mid Atlantic. American Red Cross Senior Instructor. Past President & Director of Groton Long Point Association (1998-2009). Began volunteering with Work Vessels for Vets in 2009 by promoting annual fundraisers. Loves fishing, sailing and spending time with "Bear" his significant other, a 100lb black Labrador.
Robert "Bob" Fiore, Secretary of the Board - of Mystic, CT is a retired Navy veteran and marina owner who continues his service to fellow military veterans through his work with WVFV, assessing and mentoring veteran applications and donor offers of vessels.
Kathleen M. Burns, Past 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. 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. As a Board Member of WVFV, coordinates the acquisition, rehab and delivery of the organization's boat donations.
Paul Jacey - of Noank, CT joined the WVFV Board of Directors in 2016, 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.
Marc Harrell - Treasurer of Niantic, CT 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 crewmember at the International Ice Patrol in New London, Connecticut. He is paying it forward for the 37 ft vessel he received for his oyster and kelp aquaculture business by mentoring and assisting fellow vets.
John P. Isenburg 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 co-founder of the Bank of Western Massachusetts (now Chittenden Bank). He has an avid interest in sports and was co-owner of Springfield INdians Hockey Club. He is a scratch golfer and follows UNC sports and the Red Sox.
Cathy Dow-Royer of Groton, CT joined the board in 2022. Cathy has an extensive professional career in occupational therapy, both as a practiioner and educator. She retired as Director and Professor of the Occupational Therapy Program at Western New England University. Her teaching and research have included thr role of OT in treatment of polytrauma in veterans. She is a golfer, and plays USTA Team tennis and paddle tennis.
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.