Santa Maria Fairpark was filled with volunteers and helping hands on Saturday morning during the Santa Barbara County's Veterans Stand Down event.
After being canceled last year due to the pandemic, organizers say this year's event is more important than ever for the community. The event had veterans all the way back from WWII and up to those recently coming off of active duty.
According to organizers, the 9th annual event provides at-risk veterans and veterans facing homelessness with dozens of needed items, such as food, clothing, hygeine products, medical and vision screenings, and showers. It also gives those facing hardship an opportunity to learn about beneficial programs such as veterans treatment court, California ID Cards, housing, employment, and mental health.
"We know that just a one day event isn't going to bring somebody out of homelessness, what our goal is is to know who that person is, know their name, find out what their situation is," said Steve Lavagnino, Santa Barbara County District 5 Supervisor. "We've got an army of volunteers, and army of the community behind them that's here to tell that veteran 'Hey, thank you for your service and what can we do to make your life better."
A free shuttle service to the Stand Down from San Luis Obispo County was available to veterans, courtesy of San Luis Obispo Veterans Services Collaborative and Ride-On Transportation. From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., veterans could be picked up from sites in Paso Robles, Atascadero, Los Osos, San Luis Obispo, and Grover Beach.
They could also be bussed in from Santa Barbara, Isla Vista, Solvang, Buellton, and Lompoc, courtesy of the Chumash Casino.
Participants and their families were required to apply for Stand Down ahead of time. The event was free of charge for all who utilized its services and donations.
The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department was also there to provide free COVID-19 vaccinations and testing, as well as flu shots.
A full list of donors to Stand Down, in addition to more information on how to become a volunteer can be found here.