September 23, 2019

Moulton Honors Joseph LeBlanc with Rev. Peter J. Gomes Service Award

Salem, Mass. — Representative Seth Moulton (D-MA) recently presented Joseph LeBlanc, the Veterans Service Officer for North Andover and Boxford, with the 4th Annual Rev. Peter J. Gomes Service Award at Ironstone Farm in Andover.

“Reverend Gomes was my mentor and my friend,” said Rep. Moulton. “His example inspired my own journey to serve in the Marines and later as a Member of Congress. The Gomes Service Award recognizes people in our community like Joe LeBlanc who embody the values that Reverend Gomes instilled in me: integrity, compassion, and a commitment to serving others.”

Moulton created the award in 2016 in memory of Rev. Prof. Peter J. Gomes, his mentor and the minister of Harvard’s Memorial Church.

Ironstone Farm provides equine therapy for children with disabilities, cancer patients, and veterans. After the award ceremony, Moulton and his staff organized a day of service at Ironstone Farm with Youthbuild, an AmeriCorps-supported youth service organization that teaches high school students vocational skills; RAYVETS, a group of Raytheon employees who are veterans and work on community service projects; and the honorees and their friends and family members. The group installed a wheelchair ramp and helped renovate a farmhouse that will serve as temporary transitional housing for homeless veterans and their families.

Background

The recipient of the 2019 Rev. Peter J. Gomes Service Award is Joseph LeBlanc.

Nominated by Massachusetts Rep. Tram Nguyen, Joseph LeBlanc has been an invaluable resource to the 13,000 veterans in the Towns of North Andover and Boxford, where he serves as the Veterans Service Officer. Joe is an Army veteran who served 29 months of active duty in Afghanistan, and also served a tour of duty with the Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq. Joe understands what it’s like for veterans to have to adjust to being back home, and is touted as frequently going above and beyond to help veterans in need.

One-third of the veterans in North Andover and Boxford have a service-connected disability, and many of them have worked with Joe to obtain benefits. Joe is a trained social worker and often works with veterans in financial, medical, mental health or personal crisis. His level of support goes beyond the standard services of the VSO.

Joe is creative in his approach. During the government shutdown, he helped veterans who temporarily went without pay enroll in Chapter 115 benefits and access other services. He has implemented a mobile food market to bring donations from the Boston Food Bank to families in need in North Andover. He has also established a food security program with the North Andover farmers market and worked with the North Andover Merchants Association to provide redeemable tokens for veterans to use to buy local, healthy food for their families.

Joe has devoted his life to helping the country keep its promises to servicemembers and their families. For example, last month, Joe brought three Gold Star families to Bourne National Cemetery to visit the graves of their loved ones, including one Gold Star widow who had never been able to visit her husband’s grave.

The finalists for the 2019 Rev. Peter J. Gomes Service Award were:

  • Magnolia Contreras — a Lynn-based advocate for health care accessibility and economic opportunity for working families and people of color. She has served on the board of Lynn Community Health Center, the Economic Development Industrial Corporation of Lynn, and My Brother’s Table. Magnolia formerly taught at Salem State University, where she used a social justice framework to help students learn private and non-profit management principles.
  • Meredith Joss — A member of the Ipswich Refugee Project who is dedicated to welcoming new refugees seeking to start a new life in Essex County. She strives to connect refugees to critically needed services, often driving many herself to work or classes. She has welcomed refugees into her own home for extended periods of time as part of her commitment to serving the refugee population.
  • Rebekah Richardson — Becky, as she is known in her hometown of Nahant, has spent the better part of the last 60 years serving others. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, she helped injured and aging veterans at the Boston-based Hale Barnard Services. Today, at 85, she is the Founder and Director of Promise the Children and works to improve access to quality childcare, early education, health care, and nutrition programs.