A couple of weeks ago, I sat in on a planning meeting for the Ninth Annual “Veterans Stand Down” hosted by U.S.VETS, Â March 21-22 Â at the East Las Vegas Senior Community Center. Â I dropped by the Stand Down to see how it was going. Much credit goes to the 15 sponsors who donated more than $26,000 and 109 provider agencies representing just about every contact a veteran might need, and the 426 volunteers, many from Nellis and Creech Air Force Bases, who filled a variety of jobs – from cooks and servers, to shuttle drivers, baggage checkers, traffic and parking, and distributing food items and clothing.
I got an inkling of how popular Stand Down would be when I arrived at the community center. Â Not a spot to be found in the huge parking lot or for half a mile on either side of Stewart Avenue. Â A courteous young man directed me to the Rivera Sports Center, about a mile away on Stewart, where I would catch a shuttle back to the center. Â The guy running the shuttle stop was Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Washington, a Pennsylvania native, who is assigned to the 422 Test and Evaluation Squadron at Nellis. Â Benjamin had on the official bright orange t-shirt worn by volunteers.
I joined a tour of the facilities led by Shalimar Cabrera, Site Director of U.S. Vets of Las Vegas, and “head honcho” of the event. Ms. Cabrera showed us the sign-in process, and then we headed into a large room staffed by volunteers from every imaginable provider service. Â Then we stopped by the Goodwill Store, and watched homeless or at risk veterans fill up shopping bags with food and clothing. Â Attendees are issued vouchers at sign-in, good for food and clothing. Â It was my observation that nobody was too concerned about how many items the vets bagged. Â Walter Lescano, Director of Community Affairs and Donations for Goodwill of Southern Nevada, agreed. Â ”If they need it, they can have it.”
We crossed the spacious central outdoor patio, where lunch was being served (they also served breakfast and dinner) and D. J. Kuzyn Brucie supplied the music. Â I felt like we were transported back to the sixties and seventies when “Proud Mary” blasted out to the obvious enjoyment of the many Vietnan-era Veterans. Â Shalimar told me that both Brucie and Thursday’s D.J., Â ”Donnie”, were working gratis.
We next went to the hygienic services area, where you could get a shower, shave, and a haircut and pick up personal care items. Â Ten barbers volunteered their services, including
Cherol Piermarini of Posares Salon, who was glad to donate her time.
I called Shalimar later, to complement her on a job exceedingly well done. Â She told me the best guess is that some 620 Veterans attended this year’s Stand Down. Â Several Veterans were hired on the spot, and more than 80 were set up for job interviews. Â Thirteen were given housing, and 130 received appointments for further interviews as housing becomes available. Â The Las Vegas Justice Court cleared 95 warrants.
All in all, it was an extremely well organized event and a pretty darn good day for our Veterans.
Much thanks to the many sponsors, providers and volunteers who made it possible!