Friday, September 4 , 2015, 8:28 am | Mostly Cloudy 68.0º




Local Veterans Take Advantage of Free Services at County Stand Down Event

First countywide outreach effort draws crowd to Santa Maria Fairpark

Santa Barbara County Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino gets Saturday’s Stand Down event started at the Santa Maria Fairpark.

Santa Barbara County Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino gets Saturday’s Stand Down event started at the Santa Maria Fairpark.  (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

By Gina Potthoff, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @ginapotthoff |

The day started with a free pancake breakfast and a chance to snag as many clothing and toiletry items as possible.

Then, Benny and Lynn Castro of Santa Maria walked their two large Akita dogs — Taisha and Niche — to a pet care station at the Santa Maria Fairpark, where bathing, licensing and other free services were provided during Saturday’s first-ever Santa Barbara County Stand Down event.

“He’s been wanting to come since he’s seen the poster,” Lynn Castro said.

Benny Castro, a Marine veteran, was one of many former servicemen and women who came out to Stand Down. Similar events have been hosted around the country since 1988 through efforts of the Veterans Affairs Department.

Posters for the event, intended to feed, clothe and help shelter veterans, went up about 14 months ago after Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino decided to spearhead the event.

“With shots and everything, we couldn’t afford it,” Lynn Castro said of upkeep for their two dogs. “My husband has bad eyes; and the dental. Everything for free.”

A mix of uniformed Vandenberg Air Force Base volunteers, veterans and their family members gathered for a morning opening ceremony before disappearing among the hundreds of free services offered.

“To all the veterans who are here, welcome home,” Lavagnino said. “Thank you for your service.”

Several other officials spoke and thanked veterans for their service, including Santa Maria Mayor Larry Lavagnino, who commended his son’s efforts.

“People don’t realize what pride you have after serving your nation,” said the elder Lavagnino, a Navy veteran. “I’m just so happy about what’s happening.”

More than 100 different organizations and about 350 trained volunteers donated money or time to the event, which was in full swing from 7 a.m. to after 4 p.m.

Vietnam War veteran Carl Buck of Santa Maria smiled as he stood up from the chair where he got a free haircut from Sport Clips.

The 63-year-old said he has already been receiving veteran services, but he came to pick up some free stuff for veterans at his church.

Felix Rangel of Arroyo Grande talked with legal services representatives, who may have helped him find a job.

Rangel, a Vietnam veteran, walked around Saturday with Vandenberg volunteer April Wimmer at his side to carry freebies and guide him around.

“These guys have given so much,” Wimmer said. “It’s just a chance to say thank you.”

Rangel said he was grateful for the free help from Wimmer and the rest of the donors.

“These are great,” he said. “They helped me. They made my day and my whole year.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.




comments powered by Disqus

» on 10.15.12 @ 03:09 PM

I know one veteran personally who received services at this event and he is extremely grateful to everyone who was on-site to assist. The sleeping bag, back pack and clothing will help this homeless Veteran have an easier go of it. Thanks to all of the sponsors and volunteers who made this event possible for our veterans.  We must never forget their service and we as a nation must assist our veterans in any way that we are able.  God bless our Active Duty Service personnel and Veterans. Thank you for your service and Welcome Home.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

 

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.