The Kitsap Area Veterans Alliance held its second Veterans Stand Down of the year Sept. 28 at the Sheridan Park Community Center in Bremerton.
The Stand Down acts as a resource fair for veterans and their families, offering information, resources and free services for those in need. Complimentary services for veterans and their families included dental screening, veteran’s assistance, housing, employment, education and counseling. Qualifying veterans and family members also received free clothing, sleeping bags, groceries and personal hygiene items.
“The idea is to get low-income, indigent veterans these services that they can use,” Stand Down Committee Chair Jim McKenna said. “We are a volunteer organization, so all these people are volunteering their hours. It’s just wonderful.”
The Kitsap County Stand Down has been taking place since 2007, with this one being the 24th KAVA has put on, McKenna said. Around 3,300 veterans have been assisted by the event over the years, McKenna added.
“We typically see 120 to 180 veterans, along with spouses and dependents beyond that,” McKenna said of the average turnout for each Stand Down. “We are a large percentage of the veteran community, so this helps support the veterans in our area.”
McKenna said about 150 veterans and their family members came out to the event last week. The Stand Down event served 253 hot meals, gave out 200 grocery bags and 30 sleeping bags and provided dental services to 24 veterans. Helping to organize the event were 125 volunteers, he added.
Agencies that provided services at the Stand Down included the Department of Veterans Affairs, Olympic College, Veterans Service Organizations, Kitsap Legal Services, Washington Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Social and Health Service, Red Cross, Kitsap Community Resources and Kitsap Transit, among others.
Combat veteran Bill Simons was one of the veterans on hand who represented the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association. Simons has been going to the Stand Downs for about five years. Simons said he served in the Navy for 23 years and conducted special projects in Vietnam.
Simons said the Stand Down event is a great resource for those in need, as well as a good place to catch up with fellow veterans.
“There is always something you can pick up,” he said. “You always run into somebody you know from somewhere or stationed at the same place. It’s about the only time we get to see each other. It’s kind of cool.”
The 23-year Navy veteran ventured through the various resources, finding hearing aids, as well as attempting to coordinate an Honor Flight to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., to see his name etched in the memorial.
“I think it’s fabulous,” Simons said of the Stand Down. “It really helps out a lot of them [veterans] who don’t have anything.”
According to McKenna, the Stand Down’s most popular services were the dental vans, hot food, clothing and haircuts.
“I think it’s very vital,” McKenna said. “I’m a Vietnam veteran and one of the things you run into is the fact that sometimes they’re [veterans] forgotten. They’re the ones who are maybe camping out behind Walmart. This allows them to at least get some warm clothing and food. It does have an impact.”