The Central Valley Veterans Stand Down took place last month, September the 18th through the 21st. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to volunteer at such a wonderful event on behalf of the American Red Cross. It is an event that has a lasting impact on the lives of both those who volunteer and receive services.
For those who are not familiar with what the Stand Down is I will further explain. The Stand Down is an event organized by the organization, Central Valley Veterans with the help of numerous agencies and led by Director John Schuler. The event lasted 4 days and offered veterans services and homeless veterans were able to stay overnight at the facilities. Among the services offered included, application for California Identification Cards, Social Security Cards, employment opportunities, medical referrals and mental referrals. Veterans that chose to stay overnight at the facility were provided meals, clothing, personal hygiene supplies and access to showers. Among the list of presenters at the opening ceremony was the mayor of Fresno, Ashley Swearengin and Secretary of California, Department of veteran Affairs, Peter Gravett.
Every year the Red Cross participates in this extraordinary event by providing comfort kits. The comfort kits include items such as shampoo, soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste. In addition, the Red Cross provides cots for the veterans that are staying overnight at the Stand Down.
The Stand Down is an amazing event for so many reasons. It provides a safe place to stay for homeless veterans and provides easy access to services that they are in need of, but were out of reach of. Veterans who participate are given items they can use there and take with them when they leave. For the 4 days Veterans receive 3 meals a day. A person should never have to worry where their next meal will come from, something so many of us take for granted. There is a sense of unity that you can feel. Everyone there was either a veteran or has a passion for helping veterans. When you join the military you enter a brotherhood and sisterhood that is life long, being at the Stand Down I could definitely feel that. As a veteran you are surrounded by people who fought the same battles, who made the same sacrifices and felt that same pain and fears.
Personally, I absolutely loved volunteering at the Stand Down, it fed my passion. As a volunteer I was welcomed by John Schuler and the veterans assisting with the event. I remember looking around in awe of everyone there, each generation, knowing that they have fought for our country and now we must fight for them. These veterans are struggling, but I loved that during this event they can gain resources and hope. Seeing everyone laugh and share stories was priceless.
I, along with the American Red cross want to do everything that we possibly can to help military members, veterans and their families. I highly encourage everyone to become involved and help at this event next year.