EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 21, 2013

Air Force volunteers pitch in to renovate home for vets

By Paul Tennant

---- — NORTH ANDOVER — Airman Corey Nadeau could have spent yesterday at the beach or doing something else fun.

Instead, Nadeau, 19, who enlisted in the Air Force on Feb. 26 and recently completed his basic training, joined a dozen or so other airmen and volunteered several hours cleaning up the interior of 138 High St.

The house is being transformed into a three-family home for veterans and their families.

Many of the volunteers work in the recruiting department at Hanscom Air Force Base. Nadeau will soon report to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio to receive his first assignment as an airman.

“I thought it was a good cause, and I’m helping out my Air Force family,” Nadeau, of Lowell, said.

He and other volunteers worked without pay for several hours, lugging loads of old Sheetrock and other construction debris from the house to be dumped into a trash bin.

Veterans Services Officer Ed Mitchell said 14 local veterans and their families need housing. John Ratka, executive director of the Veterans Northeast Outreach Center, which recently purchased 138 High St. and will administer the property, said he hopes former members of the Armed Forces will be able to move into the house by Christmas.

He conceded that may be difficult.

The house, which had been foreclosed upon before the veterans group bought it, has two apartments. Plans call for adding a third apartment to the left side of the building, as viewed from the street.

Ratka said the Veterans Northeast Outreach Center, based in Haverhill, is grateful for the support the project received from neighbors. He noted that some of them attended the Aug. 13 meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals, which granted a special permit for the project.

“It’s important for us to be a good community member,” he told the volunteers yesterday.

Tech. Sgt. Christopher Lanning, a 15-year veteran of the Air Force, organized yesterday’s cleanup detail.

“This offers the chance to give back,” said Lanning, who serves as flight chief for Air Force recruiters in the Boston area. “It helps our predecessors.”

Lanning said recruiting is going well — “We attract the brightest day in and day out.”

The Veterans Northeast Outreach Center manages more than 100 apartments for veterans in need. The Veterans Mansion on Cedar Street in Haverhill, renovated in 1997, was the group’s first effort at providing homes for men and women who have served in the military and need help.

The converted mansion has 22 apartments. Other homes for veterans in Haverhill managed by Ratka’s group include 10 units at the Evan O’Neill Memorial Hall and 25 beds in what used to be the religious education building for the former St. Rita Church.

The Veterans Northeast Outreach Center also provides 60 beds in Building 5 at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford and leases five apartments from the Amesbury-Merrimac Housing Authority. The center plans to build another 30 homes for veterans in Haverhill, Ratka said.