Cathy Cook personally sees the impact of her work with a charity that provides donations of all sorts of equipment and tools to veterans.
Sometimes, when veterans are notified about what they will receive, they are moved to tears, said Cook, executive director of Work Vessels for Veterans, one of 29 military and veterans organizations that received a combined $1.5 million in donations from Newman's Own Foundation.
She recalls notifying Army veteran Mickey Clayton that she would receive an all-terrain vehicle with special accessories to use on her sheep ranch in Oregon.
Because of a leg injury sustained in Iraq, Clayton is unable to ride a horse. "I have a hard time getting out to the farthest pastures or around the ranch to do routine things like round up animals, bring in sick or newborn calves and lambs, or check fence lines for regular upkeep," Clayton wrote in her request for assistance.
Cook said that when Clayton was told about the ATV donation, the veteran responded: “You have no idea what a difference this will make in my life.”
Work Vessels for Veterans received $30,000 from Newman's Own Foundation this year, and has received a total of $100,000 over the last two years.
The organizations receiving grants provide a wide variety of services, such as physical and mental rehabilitation, career development, entrepreneurship, education and housing. Some organizations focus on female veterans.
In announcing the donations, Robert Forrester, president and CEO of Newman’s Own Foundation, pointed to the sacrifices that service members make to serve their country.
“It is not so much a responsibility to support them, but more a privilege to express our gratitude for their service,” he said in a statement. “We’re proud to fund these organizations that provide services for military personnel, veterans, and their families.”
Work Vessels for Veterans, run by five volunteers in the fishing village of Noank, Connecticut, was founded in 2008 after lobsterman John Niekrash got a new lobster boat and wanted to give his previous boat to a returning veteran.
Since then, the organization has redefined "vessel" to include any type of vessel or equipment that helps veterans embark on civilian careers or educational pursuits. Veterans approved for donated equipment for their businesses have set up business plans, and many have gone through entrepreneurial training, Cook said.
More than 1,300 veterans in 48 states have received various types of equipment or vehicles, including trucks, tools, cleaning equipment, blueberry bushes, beehives and laptops, Cook said. Most of the donations are in-kind grants; the volunteers negotiate with sellers and try to get a reduced price, which the sellers can use as a tax deduction.
When they get a request for a veteran, “we try to find a match with an individual or corporation," Cook said. "We have no warehouse. It’s match by match.”
One of the most common items requested is pickup trucks, often from veterans in the construction business. The group now has 20 pending requests for pickups, Cook said.
Newman’s Own Foundation was established in 2005 to carry on actor Paul Newman’s philanthropic legacy after he started the food company Newman’s Own in 1982, with all profits going to charity. Newman was a World War II Navy veteran, and Newman’s Own has supported a number of military charities over the years.
Organizations receiving grants this year:
American Corporate Partners (New York)
Applied Behavioral Rehabilitation Institute Inc. (Bridgeport, Connecticut)
Charlotte Bridge Home (Charlotte, North Carolina)
Columbus House (New Haven, Connecticut)
Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network (Hartford, Connecticut)
Connecticut Veterans Legal Center (West Haven, Connecticut)
Farmer Veteran Coalition (Davis, California)
Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation Inc. (Bloomfield, Connecticut)
Fisher House Foundation Inc. (Rockville, Maryland)
Help Our Military Heroes Inc. (Easton, Connecticut)
Inner City Law Center (Los Angeles)
IVMF at Syracuse University (Syracuse, New York)
Military Women in Need (Los Angeles)
National Veterans Transition Services, Inc. (San Diego)
Rodale Institute (Kutztown, Pennsylvania)
Sentinels of Freedom Scholarship Foundation (San Ramon, California)
Service Women's Action Network (Washington, D.C.)
Swords to Plowshares Veterans Rights Organization (San Francisco)
Team Rubicon (El Segundo, California)
The Mission Continues (St. Louis)
The Pathway Home Inc. (Yountville, California)
The Posse Foundation Inc. (New York City)
University of Minnesota Foundation (Minneapolis)
University of Southern California (Los Angeles)
Veteran Homestead Inc. (Fitchburg, Massachusetts)
Warrior Canine Connection (Brookeville, Maryland)
Women's Business Development Center (Chicago)
Work Vessels for Veterans Inc. (Noank, Connecticut)
Workplace Inc. (Bridgeport, Connecticut)
More information is available at: http://newmansownfoundation.org/military