Friday, November 16 , 2018, 4:07 am | Fair 47º


Stand Down Steps Up to Deliver Services to Santa Barbara County Veterans

5th annual event draws hundreds of former military members, volunteers to Santa Maria Fairpark for distribution of clothes, haircuts, pet care and more

Veteran Ted Strangman of Buellton looks at pants with help from Senior Airman Justin Goodwin at the Fifth Annual Santa Barbara County Veterans Stand Down on Saturday in Santa Maria. Click to view larger
Veteran Ted Strangman of Buellton looks at pants with help from Senior Airman Justin Goodwin at the Fifth Annual Santa Barbara County Veterans Stand Down on Saturday in Santa Maria. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.]

Despite the dreary weather, smiles were plentiful at Santa Maria Fairpark on Saturday among volunteer, veterans and service providers.

The Fifth Annual Santa Barbara County Veterans Stand Down aimed to help more than 500 veterans, many of them homeless, in various ways.

For some, it was getting dogs examined and treated. For others, it was new boots and clothes, while others received assistance from dozens of agencies and organizations ready to help.

Gray skies and light rain fell on the event, but didn’t dampened spirits.

“I apologize to everybody for praying for rain,” said Santa Barbara County Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, who started the Veterans Stand Down.

“I didn’t know it was going to happen like this, but that’s OK.”

The 2016 edition mirrored earlier versions of the event, with some minor additions, including vision screening among medical services and barbers.

“Everything else is pretty much the same, just trying to perfect it, making it more efficient,” Lavagnino told Noozhawk.

Free transportation was provided for veterans living in Lompoc, Santa Ynez and the Santa Barbara area.

“The better we organize everything, the easier it is to get through the entire event in a shorter amount of time,” Lavagnino said.

He said he was proud of the volunteers who make the day possible, along with donors who provide assorted goods and services.

“I have to say that the quality of the clothing and the things that we’re giving away that people have donated — far superior to any year we’ve had so far,” Lavagnino said. “It’s just a real step up.”

The Stand Down qualified for a federal Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program grant, which allowed organizers to purchase several hundred pairs of boots and other supplies specifically for homeless veterans.

More than 90 service providers offered assorted help, including legal assistance, job assistance and more.

Lavagnino started the Stand Down after learning how other communities have successfully served homeless and at-risk veterans for years.

“As we do this, too, I think we’re trying to figure out ways to make it last more than a day,” he explained. “Basically, the first year or two we were mostly concentrating on what we could give away, what do guys need who might be on the street, as opposed to now we’re looking at what services can we provide.

“There’s a huge safety net out there available for veterans and a lot of it is just educating them on what they’re entitled to,” he added. “Really trying to connect them into the community.”

The help wasn’t just limited to veterans and their families. Dozens of dogs were among pets to get veterinarian exams, grooming services and supplies.

Fred Allega of Santa Maria watched as his dog, Harley Rose, received treatment, including trimming her nails and vaccinations.

“It means the world to me,” Allega said of the help given to his dog. “This is my best friend right here.”

Inside the Convention Center, piles of folded towels sat on a table, ready to be given away, while racks of clothes were nearby, with volunteers finding whatever size a veteran needed.

Buellton resident Ted Strangman, who served during World War II and the Korean War waited as volunteers sought pants to match the size he requested.

“I think it’s exciting,” he said of the Veterans Stand Down. “It’s great.”

Like other veterans, he was paired with an airman from Vandenberg Air Force Base to escort him around the fairgrounds, and carry his bags.

“He’s my favorite Air Force man,” Strangman said of Airman Basic John Della Penna.

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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