A total of 530 veterans received a wide range of services — from medical and dental care, to clothing and food, to haircuts and counseling — during the seventh annual Santa Barbara County Veterans Stand Down.
The one-day event, held at the Santa Maria Fairpark on Oct. 20, included providers that offered more than 120 services, according to organizers.
Of the 530 veterans who attended the event, 56 were women, and 171 of that total classified themselves as homeless, including 15 women, according to 5th District County Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, who founded the event and is aided by coordinator Sandy Agalos and a large committee of volunteers.
In its first year in 2012, a total of 229 veterans were aided.
“We started with an idea and a handful of people, and now we have a committee of over 100 — a committee of very talented people who come together to find special ways to help veterans,” Lavagnino said. “We have learned about each other’s programs, and made many new friends along the way.”
The ages of the attendees ranged from veterans who served in the current conflicts in the Middle East, to three veterans aged 91 to 96. There were 117 veterans aged 51 to 60; 135 veterans aged 61 to 70; and 21 veterans between the ages of 81 and 90.
Of the veterans who attended, 16 received information from the Santa Barbara County Department of Behavioral Wellness, while almost 80 received information from the Employment Development Department, Raytheon and InDyne, according to organizers.
Additionally, 35 veterans received civil legal information and 19 were helped by the Public Defender’s Office. Some 200 of the veterans stopped and received information about suicide prevention and awareness, while 45 received vision screening and 26 had Community Health Center health screenings.
Organizers also reported that the Department of Motor Vehicles answered 128 questions about driver’s licenses and provided six ID cards. Direct Relief International gave out 350 bags and 60 animals were seen at the Pet Zone.
Sport Clips provided 87 haircuts and the Santa Barbara County Cattlemen’s Association provided more than 730 barbecue luncheons.
In all, there were 649 volunteers, including 165 volunteers from Vandenberg Air Force Base active duty personnel.
The “Team Vandenberg” crew assisted with staging the event from beginning to end; conducted clothing drives at the base; provided work crews the two days prior to the event; monitored the veteran gate; greeted veterans at the arriving buses; served food in the meal line; visited with veterans; and worked in the convention center restocking and sorting items, among other tasks.
Among the new providers and partners this year were Veggie Rescue; San Luis Obispo County Health Outreach; Aera Energy; Laurus College; Freedom Warming Centers; California Highway Patrol; Federal Employee Dental and Vision Insurance Program; Crosspoint Baptist Church; and LIUNA Laborers’ Union Chapter 220.
During a luncheon this week for Stand Down committee members, Lavagnino revealed some of the numbers related to the event and singled out some of the volunteers and partners who made it possible.
Edgardo Coronado was named Volunteer of the Year for this year’s event. Coronado said he became involved with Stand Down because, as a former Army leader, he felt a responsibility to the people with whom he served in Iraq and other countries.
Coronado has helped at Stand Down in the clothing area every year since 2012, except for one year when he was deployed to Afghanistan. He retired at the rank of Infantry Command Sergeant Major after 26 years of service.
United Launch Alliance was named Organization of the Year. Recent ULA retiree and military veteran Jim Boyle gathered his fellow employees to help at Stand Down, and the crew managed the baggage check station.
“Thank you ULA for keeping vets’ belongings organized and safe while they access services at Stand Down,” Lavagnino said.