Stand Down bigger, better than ever

Linda Saholt

News Review Correspondent

Stand Down bigger, better than everThis year’s Veterans Stand Down and Support Fair attracted 202 veterans to check out various services, and 63 organizations with tables offering services of various kinds. The event was free.

“Last year we had 27 vendors and 105 vets,” said Vicky Donohue, member of both the Veterans Council and the American Legion Auxiliary.

Several organizations had tables of free clothing and sleeping bags. There was also an entire room full of clothing and a table piled high with sleeping bags.

At the American Legion Auxiliary’s table, Volunteer LuAnn Capazzi said the group gave away 30 backpacks to homeless vets, 11 laundry baskets full of food to those in temporary housing, and clothing and shoes for anybody who needed them.

“Our leftovers go to the Barstow Veterans Home for their Christmas program,” said Capazzi. “We’re taking donations for troop boxes, too.”

Hank Isenberg, 83, a veteran of Korea (U. S. Army, Third Infantry) lives in Quartz Hill, belongs to veterans’ groups in California City and Lancaster and regularly attends all the stand downs he can.

“This is a great stand down,” he said. I donated a lot of clothes for it, some new.” He belongs to a group called Pup Tent 19, the “Cooties,” in California City. “We have good times. We do things for the needy, like wheelchairs, clothing, anything they need.” According to Isenberg, what the vets he sees need most is clothing and sleeping bags.

He often goes to the Wilshire area in Los Angeles. “It’s sad to see all these guys in the alleys. It’s so cold. They sleep under bridges and in culverts. I was surprised to see there are not many homeless vets here in Ridgecrest.”

Local veteran Bill Durvin said he thought the event was wonderful. “I thought it was a broad spectrum of opportunities. They gave the veterans lots of food, too.”

At the Operation Healthy Homecoming, one volunteer said plans are in the works to start a military resource center for veterans in Ridgecrest, hopefully before the end of the year. It would be under the umbrella of Mental Health America of Los Angeles.

The event kicked off with an opening ceremony and Color Guard. Free breakfasts and lunches were served to veterans. An amazing diversity of services and information was offered to attendees. Volunteers by the dozen were on hand.

For more information on the Ridgecrest Veterans Advisory Committee, see www.facebook.com/CityOFRidgecrestVeteransAdvisoryCommittee or call Jimmy Brantley at 760-793-8911, Nick Coy at 760608-1484, Gwen Thornton at 661-945-0596 or Richard Freeman at 909-225-9223.

Story First Published: 2013-10-01