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Johnson City Stand Down serves nearly 200 at-risk veterans

Brandon Paykamian • Oct 7, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Nearly 200 at-risk and homeless veterans were served Friday at Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church, where dozens of groups, including health organizations and human service agencies, joined together at the fifth annual Veterans Stand Down event.

Coordinated by the Appalachian Regional Coalition on Homelessness, or ARCH, the event brought together organizations such as Volunteers of America, Remote Area Medical, Appalachian Miles for Smiles, Tri-Cities Military Affairs Council, Veterans Affairs and other volunteers, all for one purpose: helping veterans in need.

Veterans could obtain a variety of free services, including health care, dental care, haircuts, access to free clothing, legal counseling, housing assistance and a chance to get a good meal. Some also received free prescription glasses from volunteers with Remote Area Medical, a free mobile clinic that helps uninsured patients.

Organizer Doug Murray, director of outreach for ARCH, said putting together an event such as this requires help from everyone in the community.

“The main thing we don’t want to have is vets who’ve served this country out there spending the night on the street,” Murray said. “Everybody can lend a helping hand in providing a myriad of resources to help them. It’s not just a couple organizations, it’s a total community effort.”

“Everybody will walk away with something that’ll help them. It might be a coat, some food, some counseling or some directions on how they can get housing.”

Bill Ferguson, an Army veteran who served during the Desert Storm conflict during his 15 years in the military, said events like these are critical in helping veterans get on their feet. He said “it’s tough” to readjust to civilian life after being in the military.

Luckily, with the support of his church, family and community efforts such as Stand Down, he said he’s been able to get the help he needs, one day at a time.

“It’s great that the community pulls together to help the veterans and help them acclimate and possibly get them services they wouldn’t have otherwise,” Ferguson said. “It’s very crucial, and I’m very appreciative of it. I’m sure any veteran that has served is proud that the community is able to do this.”

Bruce Sites of Miles for Smiles said he was happy to bring his team of volunteers to help provide dental care — including extractions, fillings and cleanings — to dozens of veterans. He said he has noticed an urgent need for adequate dental care throughout the region. His team has served more than 4,000 patients so far this year at other events, many of whom were also struggling veterans.

“Obviously, this is something that’s needed in the region. If you don’t have dental insurance or money, you can’t get dental care,” he said. “That not only goes for veterans, but everybody that falls under the poverty line as well.”

“We are doing what we can to help people get the dental care they need.”

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