Nonprofit reels in funding for veteran mental health services

Feb 21, 2024

Every day, 22 veterans lose their battle with mental health and take their own lives. 

Harold Skelton, the founder and president of Fishing for the Mission 22, a nonprofit aimed at using fishing as a therapeutic service and raising awareness about mental health for veterans, held its second annual Chowderfest on Saturday, Feb. 17 at Stone Path Malt at 11 Kendrick Road.

Thirteen vendors from the area, mainly Buzzards Bay, cooked up some of their best chowder recipes to share with the community in support of the mission.

Skelton said the nonprofit is set to open its first resource center in Buzzards Bay at 47 Main Street. 

The open house and ribbon cutting ceremony will take place on Tuesday, May 7 at 11:45 a.m. The ceremony will include the singing of a national anthem by Debra Toscano, a Broadway singer and actress, accompanied by a flyover. A VIP fundraising event will follow from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

“That's going to act as our vocational marine retraining school,” where veterans can complete an apprenticeship and receive behavioral services, he said.

“In the next few months, veterans, active duty, first responders and their families — anyone that falls in that compass — can actually come to us and get behavioral services outside their primary care,” he added.

Skelton moved to Buzzards Bay in 2021 to start this nonprofit. Being new to the area at the time, he said, “It's very humbling to move to a place where I didn't know anybody and be able to get people to do this all for us.”

He said though they considered holding a chili competition at first, the nonprofit wanted to do something different as well as enhance the event in any way they could, including the inclusion of a performance by an Elvis impersonator. 

He said he often prefers to do these types of events in honor of someone in particular. This time, the nonprofit honored Josh Tipton, a veteran who lost their life to suicide this past summer. A table with photos and information about Tipton was on display for guests as they entered.

Bob Bridges, brother to the owner of Stomping Grounds Grille in Buzzards Bay, came to the event as last year’s winner. The grill’s seafood chowder included scrod, scallops and lobster with a light base.

Bridges said he was excited to be at the event this year as his sister was the one to go the year prior. He said it was a “great time” with “great people.”

Patricia Riddle of Patricia’s Palate said she began participating in the event last year for her friend, Maria, who also attended.

“Everything that I prepare is fresh and organic — everything's handcrafted and made,” Riddle said. “The flavor profile of my chowder is done with a base of Applewood bacon. All the aromatics get sauteed in the Applewood bacon grease, and the other ingredient that I use is fresh thyme.”

Dan Degan came with the crew from Mezza Luna in Buzzards Bay. Degan said he is a friend of the family and used to work for the restaurant. 

The chowder the team brought in is the same they serve in their establishment, which is made fresh everyday by one of their chefs, according to Degan. 

“Just a hearty New England style clam chowder,” he added.

Attending the event for the first time, Juan Garcia, the executive chef at Plymouth Public House, said he does his chowder a little differently than others because he starts out with pancetta to give it a smoky layer. 

“I always finish it with a fresh dill, lemon, orange and lime zest, which kind of gives it a summer taste,” Garcia said. “It's unique to me and anywhere here I think.”

Dan Minkle of Minkle Boys Catering in Stone Path Malt said, “I just use fresh local clams, some fresh herbs — very simple and just to the point — a lot of plant flavor and a little bit of bacon and celery and onions and herbs and that's it.”

In regard to the event, he said, “I think it's great to see everybody come out for a great cause.”