No Vet Left Behind

CITRUS HEIGHTS, CA (MPG)  |  By Jacqueline Fox
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The Stand Down is expected to serve some 200 veterans and accompanying family members.

Veterans' Stand Down Calls for Donations

CITRUS HEIGHTS, CA (MPG) - If you’ve vowed to serve local area veterans in some way but have not figured out how, the Citrus Heights Homeless Assistance Recourse Team (HART), in partnership with HART of Carmichael are going to make that vow very easy for you to hold to.

The nonprofit organizations are calling for donations, volunteers and event sponsorships for the annual Citrus Heights Veterans Stand Down, set for Tuesday, April 3 at Holy Family Church.  

The Stand Down, says Citrus Heights HART board member Darlene Lyons, founder and owner of EZ Events in Auburn, is focused 100% on delivering food, clothing and other necessities to veterans in need, as well as their families, and, even their pets.

The original Stand Down concept is inextricably linked to veterans.  Its origins, says Lyons, are tied to the services and support offered to enlisted soldiers returning to their infantry camps after combat during the Vietnam War.  Secure “base camps” were set up where troops were offered access to personal hygiene products, medical and dental services, mail pick up, and a quiet, safe respite from combat where they could spend a day or so recovering from the trauma of font-line battle and reenergize their spirits, as well as their health.

The Citrus Heights model is held annually for veterans to check in with local service providers and obtain critical VA services, obtain food, clothing and donated hygiene products and enjoy meals prepared by volunteer organizations—all under one roof.

“That’s the key to this event,” said Lyons.  “We make it possible for our veterans to come in to a one-stop location for a wide range of support services, enjoy a great breakfast provided by the Knights of Columbus, have lunch and snacks, obtain referrals for critical services and replenish toiletry supplies, get clothing and socks and much more.”

The Way Ministries of Citrus Heights will be cooking lunch for all attendees, while the Retired Marines will oversee traffic and security for the Stand Down, Lyons said.

HART was formed to support the local homeless population with a centralized support network of services.  But, says Lyons, it was revealed that among that contingency was a growing number of veterans who were struggling with figuring out the often complicated process to accessing VA services and benefit programs, not to mention they needed food, clothing and other essentials. 

“We started out of course by forming the HART team to deal with homeless needs, but when we got more deeply involved in the community, we found out that there was a growing number of veterans among that group and we felt we had to do more,” Lyons said.

The Stand Down, which is expected to serve some 200 veterans and accompanying family members, goes well beyond delivering the basics.  Through the help of donations and support from community and corporate sponsors, the Stand Down will also offer veterans access to employment counseling, CalVet Benefit referrals, medical, vision and dental services, flu shots, eyeglasses, pet care, including microchipping, nail clipping and more, and even haircuts and supplies to keep healthy.

Many homeless and housed veterans alike are struggling with substance abuse.  For them, representatives from treatment facilities will be on hand to connect them with appropriate recover services if they want them.  If someone needs to renew their driver’s license or obtain a bus pass, there will be help on hand for that, too.  There will even be representative providing legal aid support to veterans who have legal issues to sort out but need help getting started.

“Essentially this is a day for veterans to join under one roof to get the help they need to live lives of dignity,” said Lyons.  “We have amazing volunteers, but we always need more of them.  And, we have wonderful community and corporate sponsors who support this event, as well.

Current corporate sponsors include Target, Quick Quack Car Wash, Dignity Health, Chase Bank and Stones Gambling Hall.  The Stand Down is also supported by a vast number of Citrus Heights-based organizations including Sunrise Marketplace, Inc., the Auburn Boulevard Business Association, Sylvan Ranch Community Garden, Sunrise Food Ministry and Francis House, and through key partnerships with the Citrus Heights Police Department and Sacramento elected officials, among others.

Socks, boots, T-shirts, warm jackets, shampoo, toothpaste, backpacks and pet food are at the top of the list of items needed for the veterans, said Lyons.  Volunteers are needed, as well, to help sort through donations and serve food.

“It takes an army,” said Lyons.  “We need supporters and volunteers to help us make this day of service for our veterans a successful one.”

Lyons said shuttle service to and from the Stand Down will also be available for those who do not have transportation.