Several veterans were greeted with a handshake and a smile as they lined up outside of the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center’s gymnatorium Friday.
They were among the hundreds of homeless in and around the area who met with employers and other local agencies for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ 10th annual Stand Down event.
During the event attendees get assistance on health care and benefits, as well as employment services.
“The resource fair is open to homeless veterans and their partners that might be coming along today,” said Mary Cunningham, health care for homeless program director for VA Augusta as lines began to form. “We have a variety of wonderful community support and we have various agencies who are standing in place today to do health screenings, resource identification and for the first time we’re going to have three employers on site that are going to hire on the spot.”
Bobby Calloway, 71, was one of many looking for a job. The Army veteran said the event is also an outlet for him to socialize with other veterans and get familiar with what the VA offers.
“It gives me something to do,” he said. “I don’t have a job and really no place to go to communicate and talk with the fellows so I think this is a good thing.”
Danny Scott, a 65-year-old Augusta native, used it to follow-up on assistance he received during last year’s event at Augusta’s downtown VA. Scott, a Vietnam veteran who served in the Air Force for 12 years, said he didn’t really need medical assistance. He was seeking help in getting additional furniture for his home.
“I really don’t have any living room furniture,” he said. “I’m living with someone that’s allowing me to live in their house but I live in the living room and I need a couch, a big chair, a table, you know, things for living.”
Within it’s first hour, volunteers from the Augusta Area chapter of the American Red Cross had handed out most of the 115 hats, gloves and scarves, the majority handmade. Patty Meyer, the agency’s regional program manager for services to the Armed Forces, said the annual event provides a way for the community to give back.
“It makes me feel warm inside to give back,” she said. “I get where they’re coming from and it just makes me feel so great to be able to give back number one, to the homeless, and number two, to the veterans that have given us the lives that we’ve got.”
Leontyne Pipkin, a maternity care coordinator for the Women’s Veterans Program, shared similar sentiments. As attendees stopped by to view their table, the coordinator offered them brochures on women’s health and the services that the program provides.
“With October being the month for Breast Cancer awareness we’re handing out information geared toward that and other services for women’s health,” Pipkin said. “So I think it is great that we are able to come together (for the event) in the community.”
As the event ended, a new operation entitled Operation Reveille launched to place three veterans and their families into a new home. Cunningham said donations will contribute to getting furniture, cleaning supplies and food for the homes.
“It was started in some pretty larger cities and part of the homeless program was people share ideas and so last year I ran a home for the holidays campaign and we started in July and we were targeting 20 veterans to be moved in by Veterans Day but we actually did 32, and that was great but you know they still needed stuff,” she said. “So this year we want more than an apartment. We want to fill up, like, they’re finally home.”