Small Group Delivers Big Helping Hand to Local Veterans

By Jennifer Bray

 The coldest days of winter are filled with the scraping sound of your neighbors deicing their windshields, snappy arctic winds chasing you to your car and shrugging on that puffy winter jacket to stay warm.

Thanks to the tireless work of one scrappy local organization, ten veterans and their families will be getting some extra assistance to help defend against the bitter temperatures this time of year.

“I wanted to give back to some of my veteran brothers that didn’t come back, and I always wanted to help veterans when I retired, so I started NEHOV,” said Jim Collins. NEHOV stands for New Englanders Helping Our Veterans.

Collins, a former veteran and retired contractor grew up in Lincoln and now lives in Burrillville with his wife Belinda. NEHOV’s mission is to assist veterans in need in New England and give them easier access to help. The group is made up of just two other volunteers. But between the four of them, they work hard to make sure they help as many veterans as possible.

“Veterans are one of the biggest organizations in the world, it’s a big brotherhood and it you are a vet, your heart goes out to other vets,” Collins said.

NEHOV’s in it’s fifth year and there is no task too small for Collins to undertake in his zeal to help provide a better life for local veterans. He will travel to Brockton to pick up second-hand pots and pans to give to a veteran starting over. Collins has hit the road to New Hampshire to pick up gently-worn coats and other warm clothing. And he’s worked with local veteran resource groups like Operation Stand Down Rhode Island and New Bedford’s Veteran Transition House.

Another group that NEHOV is now working with is National Grid’s Veterans Employee Resource Group or VERG.

On January 14th, President of National Grid Rhode Island Terry Sobolewski and members of the Rhode Island VERG team met with Jim and Belinda Collins to present them with a $4,000 check.

The money will be used for heating oil and food for the ten local families and perhaps even more than that, according to Jim Collins.

“National Grid really went above and beyond and jumped forward to help us,” said Collins. “I really appreciate what National Grid has done for our veterans.”

George Maerkle is a disabled veteran who is a member of VERG and works in the gas department. He helped to get the ball rolling to raise money for NEHOV with local raffles. VERG raised $2,000 and National Grid matched it for a total of $4,000.

“Anyone who serves our country deserves our support,” Maerkle said. “We have so many freedoms and liberties, people are willing to die for this nation and fight for our freedoms and our allies, we should be willing to protect those that fight for us.”

VERG and NEHOV as well as other volunteer groups worked last spring to help a Korean War Veteran make repairs to his dilapidated home in Burrillville. National Grid sent out bucket trucks to clear the trees from around the home, provide temporary power and clean up the area. While the veteran ultimately turned down help for a new home, VERG and NEHOV have no plans on stopping. (see if George or Jim has a specific example of this).

“I’ve made good friends with the people in VERG and hope we can keep working together in the future,” Collins said.