On Saturday, dozens of organizations gathered to show their thanks to veterans and their dependents at a twice-yearly Stand Down for Veterans event.
The event was organized by Kitsap Area Veterans Alliance (KAVA) and Veterans Assistance Program as a way to honor those who served in need of specialized services they may not be able to find on their own.
Despite the chilly and foggy weather, veterans from all walks of life stopped in to the Sheridan Park Community Center for everything from a hot cup of coffee to bags of clothing. Ever true to military nature, many veterans were lined up outside well before 9 a.m. when the doors opened.
As someone who needs a little extra help here and there, Charles McMillen, a Navy veteran, came out to the event to score goods like toiletries. McMillen, who works at WorkSource in the AmeriCorps program, is also a disabled vet who is on food stamps said the event is good for veterans of all needs. He particularly noted that there was a lot more camping gear for homeless vets who might need it, and that everyone is helpful in showing the vets to the services they sought after.
“I think that everyone here supporting this event are outstanding citizens,” he said. “I see a lot of familiar faces. Everybody is here to help.”
Hairdressers Diana Webber and Kim Aiello felt the event was just a small way they could give back to those who served. Both women trimmed, buzzed, shaved and cut hair for men and women throughout the day.
“These vets are like ‘thanks for this haircut, and I’m like, are you kidding me? Thanks for your time,’” said Webber of the appreciation she receives. “They’re just so polite. We walk away feeling valued.”
Although he’s taken part in the event for the last eight years, the appreciative attitude never gets old, said Jim McKenna, program coordinator for Kitsap County Veterans Assistance Program.
“It’s people we know need help,” he said. “The other thing that almost gives me chills is the vendors who give their time.”
This year, McKenna said 120 veterans and their dependents were served. More than 200 were served meals, including volunteers. Last April, the event hosted 170 veterans, showing just how much of a need there is in a community deeply penetrated by its military ties. McKenna estimated that 90 percent of those served during the Stand Down event are low-income veterans.
Overall, the most preferred services of the attendees are haircuts, medical screenings, clothing, hot food and groceries. McKenna said the next Stand Down is expected to be hosted in April.