Veterans Stand Down Services dozens of Valley Veterans In Need
A week before Christmas, local veterans support organizations came together to host a Veterans Stand Down, an event to provide supplies and services to veterans who are down on their luck or homeless.
Northern New Mexico College’s Veterans Resource Center Coordinator, Frank Orona (R) and American Legion volunteer Charlie Bracken. Valley Daily Post image
Coordinated the event at Northern’s Eagle Gymnasium, and said that 25 service provider organizations and dozens of volunteers were on hand to assist over 30 veterans in accessing resources, such as health care access, helping them apply for Social Security benefits, find housing, employment opportunities and other needs. All veterans who participated also received a clean set of clothes including new socks and underwear, a backpack of food items and a sleeping bag.
Volunteers came from as far as Denver to assist.
Don Peters, the director of the Taos based Not Forgotten Outreach program brought with him several AmeriCorps volunteers who are participating in a seven-week program in the Taos area.
Don Peters, Director of Not Forgotten Outreach and several AmeriCorp volunteers from Denver. Valley Daily Post image
Peters complimented all the volunteers that came out to help and said, “This is all about helping those vets who need a helping hand.”
Other organizations that participated in the program included the Pueblo of Pojoaque Boys & Girls Club, students from James H. Rodriguez elementary, the American Legion, the New Mexico National Guard, the Veterans Integration Center from Albuquerque and others. U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich also sent staff members to assist veterans accessing federal benefits.
The American Legion volunteers also performed the Empty Chair Ceremony to honor all POWs and MIA soldiers.
The Stand Down exclusively serviced veterans from 9 a.m. till 1 p.m. and then opened up for other members of the community in need of services. Orona reported that around a dozen non-veterans took advantage of the services during the afternoon.
“We will definitely do it again” said Orona a few days after the event. “It was a great event for the community and I think next year we will be busting at the seams as word gets out” he continued. Orona also reported that Senator Heinrich’s representative approached Orona after the event and reported that the Senator was very encouraged by the event’s success and would work to find grant funding to support a similar event in 2016.
Organizers also sought to ensure the impact of the event was felt throughout the community. Following the event all remaining undistributed clothing and food items were donated to the Espanola Habitat for Humanity and local soup kitchens.