THE VET EFFECT: Resort sponsors, local service providers team up to support veterans event
Looking for housing assistance? Right this way.
A suit for job interviews? Over here.
Medical, dental or vision care? They got you covered.
Welcome to Veterans Stand Down, where homeless and at-risk veterans can get many of their most pressing needs met, for free, all in one place.
This year’s event, held April 17 at Big League Dreams Sports Park, even fulfilled the very specific spiritual need of LaDonna Chambers, who attended with her husband, a disabled Army veteran.
“I’m very spiritual,” said Chambers, 57, while showing off the enormous, large-print Bible a volunteer had just procured for her. “I also have vision problems.”
This marked the 15th time the Veterans Stand Down, hosted by nonprofit U.S. VETS-Las Vegas, has been held in the valley. Organizers expected to draw about 800 veterans seeking legal help, financial assistance, access to military records, food — even haircuts and showers.
“Veterans have sacrificed so much for this country,” said Shalimar Cabrera, executive director of U.S. VETS-Las Vegas. “When they’re in need of assistance, the right thing to do is help meet that need.”
The community event wouldn’t be possible without the support of volunteers, sponsors and in-kind donations. This year’s sponsors included MGM Resorts International, Cox Communications, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and Sands Cares.
Phyllis James, chief diversity and corporate responsibility officer at MGM, called it an honor to “help our brave men and women who have dedicated themselves to our country.”
Supporting the Stand Down is “just one of the things we do to show our veterans how much they mean to us,” James said. “From recruitment and employment to special offers for our customers who have served … we try to put programs in place that show our veterans, active military and their families how much we appreciate all they have done to protect our freedom.”
Cox, which created a veterans employee resource group last year, had been looking for a more targeted way to support vets, said Tamar Hoapili, community relations manager at Cox Las Vegas.
“Our resource group members, who are also veterans, suggested we put our technology to work by setting up a temporary, wide-ranging Wi-Fi network at the event site to give the hundreds of vendors the Internet connectivity they needed to make this outreach effort successful,” Hoapili said.
In addition to wireless power, help came in the form of muscle. More than 30 MGM employees volunteered to help set up for the event. One of them, Mike Cherhoniak, later helped fellow Army veteran Jawan Lugo make his way through the maze of Stand Down service providers. Lugo arrived in Las Vegas from Ohio a few weeks ago and was staying in transitional U.S. VETS housing while job searching.
“I think this is amazing,” Lugo, 27, said of the Stand Down after picking out a suit jacket to wear to interviews he hoped to soon land. “I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
Lugo also got help updating his resume, just in time for the event’s afternoon job fair.
Homelessness among veterans has fallen significantly across the nation in recent years, thanks to an increase in the number of assistance programs and funding. About 600 Las Vegas Valley veterans are homeless, Cabrera said. That’s down from 1,350 in 2011. But many veterans who now have roofs over their heads still struggle to make ends meet.
“If we’re housing them but not helping them when they’re in housing, it’s a big problem,” Cabrera said.
The Stand Down aimed to get homeless veterans off the street while providing resources to those already in housing to ensure they stay there.
“We don’t want them coming back” to homelessness, Cabrera said. “Whatever challenges they might be facing, let’s find a solution under one roof.”
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