Monday, June 25 , 2018, 7:07 am | Overcast 62º


Local News

Providers, Volunteers Ready for 3rd Santa Barbara County Veterans Stand Down

500 former military members expected to be served at Saturday event at Santa Maria Fairpark

With the help of approximately 40 people representing various service providers, Santa Barbara County Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino provided a quick preview of the upcoming Santa Barbara County Veterans Stand Down.

Information tent, medical services and more on the lawn. Shoes, clothing and haircuts in one building. Various service providers in another facility. Showers set up nearby.

The approximately 30-minute walk-through was a dress rehearsal of sorts for the third Veterans Stand Down, scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Santa Maria Fairpark, 937 S. Thornburg St.

Those who attended last week’s session learned when and where they will be set up on the day of the Stand Down to give veterans — many of whom are homeless — all sorts of assistance: legal, medical, employment, veterinary services for pets and more.

The event’s name refers to the military term for timeout after an accident or other incident to pause and refocus on safety and other matters.

Along the Fairpark walkway, various military veterans groups will be set up with tables and booths, Lavagnino said.

Shoes, haircuts and more will be available in the Convention Center.

Inside the Park Plaza Building, service providers will have tables, but providers should bring their own pens, pencils, clipboards, forms and other supplies, according to Frank Mejia, Workforce Resource Division chief with the county Social Services Department.

“Don’t worry about it being all fancy,” Mejia said. “What we’ve found with Stand Down is sometimes less is more.”

Handmade signs are perfectly suitable, he said, adding that an elaborate booth can be intimidating to some of the veterans.

Each veteran will have a blue card that service providers can use to note upcoming appointments so the information is put into one place.

Free bus passes for all the local transit systems will be available to ensure the veterans can make those scheduled appointments and receive the needed services.

Service providers were encouraged to set up before Saturday morning and to submit waiver paperwork before then.

Mejia handed out a preliminary map of where the assorted services providers will be located, but noted it likely would change before Saturday.

“This is not easy to do,” Lavagnino said of the map, and praised Mejia’s efforts, as the crowd applauded. “This is like pretty much the backbone of Stand Down.

“It’s very organized. As we get these guys to come in here, they are overwhelmed. If it was unorganized, it would be disaster, and this room is as organized as you can get.”

Lavagnino saw a 60 Minutes segment that prompted him to plan a Stand Down in Santa Barbara County.

“We took that from a little idea,” he said, adding that last year’s event helped 460 veterans, 130 of whom were homeless.

Organizers are still seeking towels, backpacks, new socks and new underwear, which can be dropped off at the Santa Barbara County Administration Building, 511 E. Lakeside Parkway, Santa Maria. To find out other locations, call 805.346.8402.

This year, brand-new steel-toed boots, shoes and other items will be distributed.

While some items and services are geared toward homeless veterans, the Stand Down actually aims to help anyone who served in the military.

Veterans who want to attend are urged to sign up before Saturday, although organizers say on-site registration will be available on the day of the event.

A free shuttle will transports veterans to Santa Maria for the event from throughout Santa Barbara County.

On the day of the Stand Down, veterans who attend will be paired with military members to help escort them to the various locations.

“There’s really a camaraderie that exists here when the homeless veteran comes in and sees another man or woman in uniform and has shared their experience, and is there to offer a helping hand,” Lavagnino said.

About 500 volunteers will be helping the veterans Saturday. But Sandy Agalos, Lavagnino’s aide, estimated that twice as many volunteers are involved in various aspects of making the event happen.

“When you start figuring it out, it’s a lot,” Agalos said.

Some 85 service providers will participate this year, Lavagnino added.

“We’ve got everything you can imagine, from just the basics, haircutting and new clothes and food, to PTSD counseling, dental work and medical,” he said. “I think it’s just a great day for anybody in Santa Maria who wants to find a way to say thank you to a veteran. It’s a great place to come volunteer.”

Although the deadline has passed to volunteer for this year’s Stand Down, Lavagnino encouraged people to volunteer next year.

“Of course, we’ll be doing it again next year,” he said. “Once we did this, we realized we’re kind of committed to this.”

When the event started, Lavagnino recalled someone from San Diego advising him that the Stand Down would change his life.

“It really has,” he said. “We get more out it than the actual veterans do, and the outpouring from the community has just been unbelievable.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully 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.

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