Editor’s Note: This is a follow-up to a News-Press story that was published on Oct. 18 about the Veterans Stand Down event.
On Oct. 16, at the Santa Maria Fair Park, more than 500 volunteers participated in a one-day event to provide essential supplies and services to veterans.
More than 340 veterans received services ranging from housing assistance to medical aid during the 2021 Santa Barbara County Veterans Stand Down, according to updated information released to the News-Press on Friday.
Of more than 340 veterans, 91 identified as homeless and 35 were women, all of whom received access to more than 100 services and providers. They received hygiene kits, clothing, boots, COVID vaccinations, flu shots, knitted items and masks, haircuts, bus tokens, gift cards, vision screening, legal aid, crisis counseling, employment assistance, pet examinations, probation consultations and more.
“In 2012 – the first year for SB County Stand Down – we started with an idea and a handful of people. Now we have a committee of over 100 – a committee of very talented people who come together to find special ways to help veterans. We have learned about each other’s programs and made many new friends along the way,” said Stand Down Founder and 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino.
The Chumash Casino and Resort provided transportation to the veterans. In addition, hundreds of meals were provided by the Santa Barbara County Cattlemen’s Association and IBEW/NECA.
This year’s newest Stand Down partners include: Idler’s Home, Salvation Army Street Outreach, Altrusa of the Central Coast and VA Greater Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Team.
This year, the Veterans Employment Related Assistance Program (VEAP) received a $500,000 grant for employment services and partnered with Stand Down to provide follow-ups with homeless veterans who attended the event. Vandenberg Space Force Base provided about 110 active duty airmen and women as volunteers.
This year’s attendance was lower than anticipated. The age of the participants ranged from 21 to 101, according to Mr. Lavagnino and Sandy Agalos, Stand down Coordinator.
“COVID played a real role in fewer participants. But also, tens of millions of dollars are being spent to house and stabilize the homeless veteran population. Our mindset is that we want the numbers to go down,” Mr. Lavagnino said.
Because of the decreased attendance, some supplies remain leftover for next year. Mr. Lavagnino is seeking warehouse space with forklift capability to store the items. Anyone with space to donate is asked to call 805-346-8402.
Planning is underway for the 2022 Stand Down.
For more information, see http://sbcountystanddown.com. For images, see Santa Barbara County Veterans Stand Down on Facebook.