Joan LePage, coordinator of VAMC’s Homeless Program, said a total of 50 different agencies took part in the stand down to help connect veterans with resources including military benefits, health and mental services, housing, legal assistance, employment, education and more.
For the third consecutive year, Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church opened its Christian Life Center for the stand down’s resource fair. And for the first time this year, the neighboring Johnson City campus of Northeast State Community College opened its new facility for a job fair for the veterans.
LePage said numerous local veterans groups sent teams of volunteers to assist in the stand down, and several larger service agencies coordinated the delivery of services.
“It’s really a huge effort. It takes us almost a whole year to prepare for it,” LePage said.
“Some of the larger agencies take responsibility for keeping track of all the veterans that come through. (The Appalachian Regional Coalition on Homelessness) played a huge role.
“Good Samaritan Ministries brought clothing and toiletries of all kinds. The Department of Defense brought surplus sleeping bags, sleeping pads, rucksacks, canteens, clothing and boots.”
The stand down began at 11 a.m. with an opening ceremony featured a presentation of colors by Science Hill High School Junior ROTC’s Color Guard, a convocation by Munsey’s pastor and the National Anthem sung by VAMC Homeless Program staff member Leah Mosley.
East Tennessee State University’s School of Nursing, Downtown Day Center and VAMC’s Women’s Health Program teamed up to provide a health fair with free screenings and referrals. Legal Aid of East Tennessee set up a free legal clinic that also included assistance from the local child support office and the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Individuals volunteers and supporters donated goods and services including several hundred pairs of eyeglasses and free haircuts for any veteran in need of one.
The Silver Angels group provided food for a complimentary spaghetti and salad lunch for the veterans prepared and served by Munsey volunteers. And Jim Benelisha and The Great Disaster band provided live music for the event.
Two and half hours into the four-hour stand down, LePage said 154 veterans had registered for the event and more were continuing to file in.
”It’s a good event and well put on,“ said Marine Corps veteran Randy Perrault, sporting a fresh high and tight cut that came compliments of David Cooper from the Veterans’ Canvas art studio on East Main Street.
”They have all kinds of good stuff and good information for short-term and long-term goals.“
Email Sue Guinn Legg at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.