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Santa Barbara County Veterans Stand Down Gearing Up For Sixth Edition

Noozhawk - 9/26/2017

With less than one month to go until the sixth , organizers are revving up for the Oct. 21 event and making a plea for last-minute needs such as hangars and wheelchairs.

The one-day event from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the - one of many partners making the event a reality - is designed for all military veterans, with a special focus on getting services and supplies to homeless and at-risk veterans.

"We're just trying to fine tune it basically at this point," said who started the Stand Down locally.

The 2017 Stand Down will include access to representatives from a variety of state, federal and local agencies along with nonprofit organizations and support groups.

Medical and dental screenings will be available, with referrals for those in need of more extensive care.

In all, 100 service providers plan to be represented at the Stand Down, which expected to host more than 500 veterans.

Pre-registration is suggested for all veterans with forms available by

Free round-trip bus transportation again will be provided to Santa Maria for veterans with stops planned in the Santa Barbara area as well as the Lompoc and Santa Ynez valleys. Applications also have information about the bus stop locations.

With time running out, volunteers at a special collection site will accept donations the next four Wednesdays from noon to 2 p.m. at the Fairpark. Donors should enter through Gate 5 at the corner of Depot Street and Stowell Road.

In addition to hangers and wheelchairs, donations of socks, underwear, towels, sweatshirts with zippers and long-sleeve T-shirts are popular. Kids' clothing and toys also are wanted for children of veterans.

For the day of Stand Down, organizers are seeking more employers willing to showcase their workplace to veterans in the service providers' arena.

A large committee led by Lavagnino and his aide, Sandy Agalos, works nearly throughout the year to organize the event, with an army of volunteers estimated at 600 people helping the day of the Stand Down.

"When you take a huge project and you divide it up, and everybody's got their little piece of it, we've managed to figure how to do it a lot easier now and a lot smarter," Lavagnino said.

Last-minute volunteers are not allowed since those assisting must go through training.

"For me, it's all geared toward making it as smooth as possible for somebody's that's at a hard point in their life. We want to make sure they have somebody there that can help them," Lavagnino said.

In 2016, 579 veterans registered and were given access to 91 different services, including medical and dental care, clothing, hygiene products, legal aid, housing services, addiction support groups, pet care and grooming, behavioral wellness counseling, food, haircuts and more, organizers said.

Last year, 139 veterans identified as homeless, with 15 of them women,

Veterans attending the 2016 event spanned from ages 21 to 96.

While the event is geared to getting much-needed help to homeless veterans, other military members are encouraged to attend.

They may learn about a benefit they weren't aware they could be receiving or get help with a child-support issue, or more, Lavagnino said.

"Whatever it is, there's going to be somebody there that will be able to help you with it," Lavagnino said. "It's not just for the homeless and the most needy, it's for every veteran."

Some supplies, such as new boots, are limited to homeless veterans only. They also get access to some military surplus items such as jackets, sleeping bags, backpacks and fleece shirts.

"It's like Christmas when we open it up," Agalos said of the shipments' arrival after organizers place orders for surplus items.

Upon arriving at the Stand Down, each veteran is paired with an airman from to serve as escort and help carry items.

"That's a real heartwarming thing to see - the interaction between the two, the young and the old," Lavagnino said.

Donations, both from individuals, organizations and businesses, fuel the effort.

"Financially it's doing well because so many people donate so many things that the cost is kept relatively low," Lavagnino said.

As he looks ahead, Lavagnino said, he envisions helping homeless veterans obtain permanent housing

"Housing, for me, feels like the missing piece in all of this. That's what I'm hoping to build on into the future," Lavagnino said.

In addition to the Fairpark, a number of other collection sites are available including:

» Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce, 104 W. Anapamu St., Suite A, Mondays through Fridays 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m.

» Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce, 614 S. Broadway, between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

» Lompoc Valley Medical Center, 1515 E. Ocean Ave., between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

» Lompoc Chamber of Commerce, 111 South I St.between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

» Buellton Chamber of Commerce, 597 Avenue of Flags, No. 10, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays.

» Carpinteria Valley Chamber of Commerce, 1056-B Eugenia Place,Carpinteria, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

» Solvang Chamber of Commerce, 485 Alisal Road,245, 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

- North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: , and . Connect with .

 
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