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Laptops for Vets: Veterans Receive Computers as they Rejoin the Workforce

For immediate release
March 16, 2009

WETHERSFIELD -- They gave freely of their time and skills to serve this country in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan. 

Now, employees from the Connecticut Department of Labor’s Office for Veterans’ Workforce Development and the U.S. Department of Labor Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS), are joining with representatives from Work Vessels for Veterans in saluting 10 recently-returned home veterans from Connecticut who fought in those wars. They’re also giving them something back -- refurbished laptop computers – as a means of saying thank you and helping them to rejoin the workforce. 

The presentation of the laptops – the outgrowth of an earlier outreach effort by the all-volunteer, Noank-based Work Vessels for Vets -- will take place 1 p.m. Tuesday, March 17 during ceremonies being held at the Connecticut Department of Labor’s Central Office, 200 Folly Brook Boulevard in Wethersfield. 

Among those participating in the event will be Work Vessels for Vets founder John Niekrash; Connecticut Department of Labor Deputy Commissioner Linda Agnew; Terry Brennan, Director of the Office for Veterans’ Workforce Development (OVWD); and Louis Kennedy, USDOL-VETS Program Director in Connecticut. Also taking part from Work Vessels for Veterans will be Ted Knapp of Green Technology Recycling; Kathleen Burns of Noank Shipyard, Inc.; and musician Dave Mason, co-founder of the rock group, Traffic, also a board member. 

Connecticut Department of Labor Office for Veterans’ Workforce Development staff (who are themselves veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) will also be in attendance, including James Campbell, U.S. Army, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran; Jason Coppola, Connecticut Army National Guard, an Operation Enduring Freedom veteran; Timothy Rockefeller, Marine Corps, a veteran of both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom; and William Brewer, a U.S. Air Force and Vietnam War veteran. The four men collaborated with Work Vessels for Veterans to identify veterans who would benefit from the laptops.

“We are pleased to be joining this volunteer organization to say thank you to these veterans for their continued sacrifices and as an agency, we applaud Work Vessels for Vets in its efforts,” Agnew noted. “At the Labor Department, we want to help our veterans return to a life that includes employment, or the opportunity to continue their education. These laptops will be a tremendous help with job search efforts or with academic endeavors.” 

Founded two years ago by Niekrash – a lifelong lobsterman by profession who lives in Mystic –the Work Vessels for Veterans group is dedicated to “assisting returning veterans, either by helping them begin civilian careers or start educational pursuits.” The organization does so, he explains,  by acquiring and distributing what he calls “the necessary start-up tools.”  

Inspired by the story of Stonington resident Master Sgt. Justin Clough, who was severely injured in Iraq in 2006, Niekrash, who was at the time himself upgrading to a larger boat, decided to reach out to veterans by giving away his old his 24-foot Pickerell boat – the Krasher III. Niekrash contacted the publication, the Commercial Fisheries News, and offered to donate the vessel to the first veteran who contacted him. He had only one stipulation – that the recipient promise the boat would be used solely for the purpose of making a living.  

The boat was donated to Marine Reservist Richard Giguere, a two-tour veteran of the Iraqi war. Giguere today actively works the vessel in Rhode Island’s Narragansset Bay. 

Not long after this first donation, “people from other walks of life wanted to help and provide other ‘vessels,’ or methods of assistance to our returning veterans,” Niekrash said. “These expanded outreach efforts are a way of  ‘paying it forward,’ to those defending our country.” 

In early 2009, Ted Knapp, President of Green Technology Recycling of Essington, PA and Kimberly Crew of Computer Systems and Solutions, Philadelphia, PA donated the laptops. GTR, a firm specializing in purchasing and refurbishing the devices, became involved, as did Novartis Pharmaceuticals of East Hanover, NJ. 

“It has been a natural fit for us to work with the Connecticut and U.S. Departments of Labor to spread the word and match the veteran with the need,” Neikrash adds. 

“This is a project that both the Connecticut Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Labor are happy to take part in,” Brennan noted. “As veterans serving veterans, our primary mission is to serve and assist our brothers and sisters who have so selflessly given of themselves in the service of this country.  The mission of Work Vessels for Veterans closely complements our own efforts and we are pleased to join them in this endeavor.”

Contacts:

  • Nancy Steffens, Connecticut Department of Labor (860) 263-6535                                                 

  • Kathleen Burns, Workforce for Vessels (860) 536-9651


200 Folly Brook Boulevard, Wethersfield, CT 06109 / Phone: 860-263-6000

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