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Veterans make connections at resource fair

Columbia Basin Herald - 9/18/2017

Sept. 18--Print Article

MOSES LAKE -- Help for military veterans, from job prospects to benefits to transportation to social services, was the goal of the Veterans Resource and Job Fair Saturday in Moses Lake.

Veterans also had the chance to receive free military surplus, everything from clothing to washcloths, at the "Veterans Stand Down," held as part of the resource fair. Active-duty personnel from Fairchild Air Force Base volunteered part of their Saturday to work at the stand down.

Materials available at the stand down included sleeping bags and ground covers, boots and jackets. The items were mostly cold weather gear, focusing on veterans in need of warm clothing, said Eileen Boylston, a member of the Grant County veterans advisory board and one of the organizers.

There are a lot of services out there for veterans, Boylston said. And most local VFW and American Legion chapter have a service officer to help veterans navigate the system. But services are scattered throughout different federal and state agencies, in different towns, said Jerry Gingrich, the new Veterans Service Officer for Grant County.

Jobs are out there, but it's sometimes difficult to find those prospective employers. The goal of Saturday's event was "to connect veterans with the resources," Boylston said.

Many vets have multiple needs, she said, and having many of the service organizations in one place made it easier to start getting them the help they need. In addition, "we're trying to connect to employment."

Booths filled the 4-H building at the Grant County Fairgrounds, from Veterans Administration representatives to Worksource, from the Grant Transit Authority to Grant County Mental Health.

The resource fair started "at least seven or eight" years ago, Boylston said. A veterans group from Utah helped put on the first one, and when it was over "they said, 'Our hope is that you continue to do this.' And we did," Boylston said. "It's grown a lot," she said, and the goal is to keep growing.

The stand down has been part of the resource fair for five or six years, she said, a way to help veterans who might be partially or completely homeless, or in need of warm clothes.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at education@columbiabasinherald.com.

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