First Veterans Stand Down a success

Linda Saholt

News Review Correspondent

First Veterans Stand Down a successRidgecrest’s first-ever Veterans Stand Down attracted 105 veterans to take advantage of services offered by 50 participating vendors, sponsors and helpers.

“This was very, very successful. Everyone’s very happy. We want to do this again,” said Gwendolyn Thornton, Employment Develop-ment Department veterans outreach specialist and an event organizer.

Among the speakers and contributors were Mayor Ron Carter, California City Mayor Patrick Bohannon, California City Manager Tom Weil, 1st District Supervisor Jon McQuiston, supervisor candidates Roy Ashburn and Mick Gleason, the China Lake Color Guard and more.

Generous donations from local businesses, individuals and groups allowed veterans to be served with a wonderful array of free services. In addition to the valuable services available, offerings included coffee and donuts, raffle prizes, presentations, free lunch for veterans and volunteer awards. Live music was by the Farris Family Singers and singer-pianist Bobby Mizzell.

McDonald’s gave out coupons for free food. The American Legion gave away 35 boxes of donated clothing, and the Navy Federal Credit Union gave away toiletries. Volunteer Carol Coy decorated the banquet hall in red, white and blue.

“The main thing was helping people,” said Natalie Young, assistant manager at NFCU. “There were gift baskets given away, too. One guy won a Snap-On Tools basket, and his face just lit up.”

Various groups offered information on health care, educational opportunities, rehabilitation, senior services, haircuts, community services, recovery programs, veterans’ programs, blood pressure and much more.

Members of the Daughters of the American Revolution gave out “comfort kits” with toiletries and hand-knitted caps.

“The VFW considers this to be an outstanding success,” said Bob Kinstle, ship’s captain for VFW Ship #4084.

“One woman came in with five kids,” said LuAnn Capazzi, National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Program committee member and a member of VFW’s Women’s Auxiliary. “Some veterans are homeless, some have a place to live but not much else. There are women, children, widows of vets who need help.”

Another auxiliary member, Charley Collins, described backpacks for kids, loaded with school supplies.“We gave out 30 buckets of food. For the homeless vets, we had tarps and plastic tablecloths for them to lie on, so they wouldn’t get wet, and blankets. The backpacks for the vets held things like jackets, socks, toothbrushes, tablets and pens. There were books, shoes, toys and stuffed animals for the children,” she said.

“The leftover food went to Bakersfield for a Stand Down on Oct. 11. This is a warm, wonderful feeling to be able to do this. I actually had to go outside because I started crying.

“To think that in this country, we have thousands of vets and even kids who are homeless. We should have had buses available in places like Inyokern and Trona to bring people in. Well, this is our first stand down, and it’s a learning experience. We’ll do even better next year.”

Story First Published: 2012-10-10