By Amanda Eldridge, Shallow Subsidy Veteran Navigator
The idea of presenting a Northern Iowa/Southern Minnesota Veterans Stand Down event was proposed in the spring of 2021 and our planning began. To our disappointment, the Stand Down was postponed one year due to COVID-19. Our board began with a small group of service providers with the goal of creating an event that connects Veterans with a variety of wrap-around services in one location – a one-stop shop, if you will. As we reached out to other providers, the board grew to include WestCare Iowa – FAVA, Iowa Workforce Development, VA HealthCare, Elderbridge Agency on Aging, Prairie Ridge Treatment Center, Veteran Auxiliaries, and our very dedicated volunteers!
After much planning, the first ever Northern Iowa/Southern Minnesota Veteran Stand Down was held on Sept. 24 at the north Iowa Events Center. In all, 162 Veterans and their families attended the event. This exceeded what the committee thought might attend our first event. Several Veterans shared their satisfaction and that they were looking forward to attending the 2nd annual event in 2023. All businesses and organizations that had a booth have given their word on returning as well. We are expecting this to grow even more next year!
Many of the Veterans that attended have been experiencing difficulties accessing housing, food, financial support, clothing, and/or employment along with various medical and mental health needs. Thanks to several donors, the event had clothing, food, job opportunities, a raffle, gift bags, chiropractic screenings, haircuts, and ways to transition their military training to civilian employment.
The community got involved by loaning or donating two-way walkie talkies, security, tents along with privacy screens for Veterans who need to stay overnight, gifts, home cooked meals (that were superb!), wonderful raffle prizes, and assistance in fundraising to support the event.
Thank you to the many that contributed to make this event happen for those who have served!