A Stand Down for Veterans at the Sheridan Community Center in Bremerton this past Saturday drew more than 110 veterans.
The popular, semi-annual stand downs give veterans a chance to find out what services and benefits they are entitled to. Veterans that attended the event can meet with physicians, get a dental exam or receive a haircut. A complimentary lunch was offered and clean clothes were available to those who needed them. Veterans with questions about mortgage assistance, legal aid or any number of other issues were welcomed with open arms.
The local stand downs are spearheaded by the Kitsap Area Veterans Alliance (KAVA), a grassroots organization made up of vets from around the county, with help from dozens of other groups and organizations. The next stand down is tentatively scheduled for October.
Dean Hearing, a member of KAVA, once again served as the stand down’s superintendent.
“We still have some veterans out there that don’t know they are eligible for Veterans Administration medical care,” Hearing said. “So, they get a chance to find that out. And, if they have a claim, they can get some information and help or find out where to go to meet with a service officer to make a claim.”
Several local veterans from a variety of organizations helped run the event. They included folks from Combat Veterans International, American Legion and VFW posts, Disabled American Veterans chapters, the Suquamish Warriors and elsewhere.
Hearing says there is a mixture of new faces and familiar faces every time a stand down is held, noting that some veterans are reluctant to seek help.
“When they know it’s being put on by veterans its easier,” he said. “We won’t know until we go through the applications, how many are homeless, how many are couch surfing.”
Hearing said organizers and volunteers are getting better and better at making sure things run smoothly at the stand downs.
“We had this thing set up in half the time that it’s taken us in the past,” Hearing said. “Instead of it taking four hours, I think we did it in two. I just want to thank all of the volunteers for doing a bang-up job.”
Hearing also noted that Grocery Outlet donated $300 worth of food and KAVA raised about $1,700 worth of food donations to give away. He was also grateful to Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent and the city.
“The mayor has been instrumental in working with us and the parks department to secure this space,” Hearing said.
Jim McKenna is with the Kitsap County Veterans Assistance Program and the local Veterans Advisory Board which played a big role in the stand down. He said the county allocated $1,300 to the event. Some $800 of that money paid for the dental van, while the rest went to marketing, groceries and other things.
“Basically it’s geared toward the low-income, indigent veteran,” said McKenna. “(And that) is where our money goes.”