Erie Chow Hall Event A Success!

NW PA Counties graphicThe Northwest Pennsylvania (NW PA) Veteran Suicide Prevention Program operates on a three-pronged approach involving healthcare providers, community organizations, and Veterans and their families in the 15 counties of NW PA. On Saturday, March 9, 2024 the 1st Annual Veterans Chow Hall lunch took place at Voodoo Brewery in Erie, PA. The event was organized by the Bodhi Garden Initiative to raise awareness for Veteran suicide prevention and featured a menu designed by celebrity chef Robert Irvine and prepared by U.S. Marine Veteran and chef Shane Cash. Speakers included Retired Marine Corps Master gunnery sergeant Bob Yarnall, who served as the Senior Enlisted Member of the Marine Corps Reserve Critical Incident Response Team, Zachary Cathcart of UPMC Safe Harbor, and Shannon Brown and Charity Grace from the Erie VA Medical Center-Behavioral Health Clinic.

The event received media coverage from Jet 24 Action News/ and their article is included below. If you or an organization you represent would like to organize a suicide awareness community outreach activity, please contact us.

Read time: 5 minutes

Erie nonprofit Bodhi Garden Initiative aids veterans’ mental health with Chow Hall event

Dana Massing, Erie Times-News

Veterans and their families will enjoy a free meal this Saturday designed by a celebrity chef, prepared by a U.S. Marines veteran and organized by an Erie nonprofit that promotes food sustainability, mental health and wellness.

The first Veterans Chow Hall, which is already sold out, is meant to provide information about veteran suicide prevention.

“When you start talking about mental health issues, people get uncomfortable,” said Mike Shannon, founder and CEO of Bodhi Garden Initiative. He said they get more uncomfortable when suicide is mentioned and even more uncomfortable when veteran suicide is mentioned.

“But we have to talk about that stuff,” Shannon said.

What is the Veterans Chow Hall

Shannon said 120 people have registered for the event, which will take place at Voodoo Brewing Co.’s Erie Pub. They will be treated to a menu designed by Robert Irvine and prepared by chef Shane Cash, according to a news release.

In addition to an amazing meal, Shannon said, there will be music, massages and speakers: retired U.S. Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. Bob Yarnall, who served as the senior enlisted member of the Marine Corps Reserve Critical Incident Response Team; Zachary Cathcart of UPMC Safe Harbor; and Shannon Brown and Charity Grace from the Erie Veterans Affairs Medical Center Behavioral Health Clinic.

“It’s all about just helping people,” Shannon said.

Bodhi Garden Initiative

The chow hall is presented by the Bodhi Garden Initiative and the Robert Irvine Foundation, which supports and strengthens the physical and mental well-being of service members, veterans, first responders and their families, according to the news release. The event is supported by the Northwest Pennsylvania Veteran Suicide Prevention Program.

The Bodhi Garden Initiative is an Erie-based multifaceted nonprofit promoting food sustainability, positive physical and mental well-being, and community engagement, according to its website. The nonprofit’s components include Feed Erie, which aims to address the food desert crisis by using aeroponic towers to grow fresh produce to offer Erie residents a more nutritious diet. Shannon said the effort to help veterans is another component of the initiative. He served as a U.S. paratrooper and has family members who have also been in the military.

An Erie nonprofit is organizing a meal for veterans and their families with a message about suicide prevention.

Find help

If you are a veteran in crisis or are concerned about one, you can reach out to the Veterans Crisis Line by dialing 988 then pressing 1, by texting 838255 or by visiting

If you or someone you know may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at any time or visit

Contact the Northwest Pennsylvania Veteran Suicide Prevention Program at

Dana Massing can be reached at

Looking to Get Involved?

friends standing togetherWhether you identify as a healthcare provider, community organization, or Veteran, there are several opportunities through the NW PA Veteran Suicide Prevention Program and PERU to connect to resources, participate in educational training, and promote harm reduction strategies. We are actively recruiting healthcare and community partners to work with us in meeting our goals and objectives. To learn more, visit the program website at

Need Help? Know Someone Who Does? Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or use the online Lifeline Crisis Chat. Both are free and confidential. You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor in your area.

University of Pittsburgh PERU logo