StandDown to help veteransDon’t let the location scare you. The Duluth StandDown is for all veterans, whether they hail from Minnesota, Wisconsin or another state.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Don’t let the location scare you. The Duluth StandDown is for all veterans, whether they hail from Minnesota, Wisconsin or another state.
“We want them to enroll and get the benefits due to them for their service,” said Paul Pederson, outreach manager with the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans. “We want them to talk to buddies and friends. Don’t defer it to the next guy; take advantage of what you’ve earned.”
The annual StandDown runs 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday at the Depot, 506 W. Michigan St. Veterans can receive a free lunch, clothing, benefit information, housing and employment assistance and referrals, chaplaincy, haircuts and more.
“Please come down, even if it’s just for a cup of coffee and some camaraderie,” Pedersen said.
Friday’s StandDown will pull together more than 50 providers, making it a one-stop shop for veterans. They can access four or five different agencies at once in a comfortable, non-office atmosphere. The event is free and all veterans can attend. For the fastest service, those attending are asked to bring their proof of service, or DD-214, with.
When Pedersen started coordinating the event in 2007, about 200 veterans attended. That number has been climbing every year, reaching 275 in 2012. After three years in the Depot, the event may be outgrowing the venue. But, Pedersen said, it’s good to know it’s reaching those who need it.
“I would encourage all veterans living in the area to take advantage of the services offered,” said Scott Buchanan, veterans service officer for Douglas County. The event offers them a chance to get the ball rolling, he said. Or they can just stop by for fellowship and to stay abreast of new developments.
“They see what’s available and get a sense of what’s happening in the veterans’ community,” Buchanan said. Not all programs at the StandDown will be a match for Wisconsin veterans, but Buchanan can help refer veterans to comparable services they can access. He also encouraged Douglas County veterans to call the veterans service office directly at 715-395-1331.
“We can connect them with state and federal benefits in Wisconsin,” Buchanan said.
Pedersen encouraged veterans to take advantage of the services available through the StandDown. Otherwise, he said, we are sending the wrong message to the government “that we don’t need it.”
Doors open at 8 a.m. with the StandDown court and legal clinic from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. A clothing distribution takes place at 10 a.m. with a welcome ceremony at 11:30 a.m.
Nearly 400,000 veterans live in Wisconsin, according to Secretary John A. Scocos of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs. Another 370,000 veterans live in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs. The nonprofit Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) estimates 1 percent of veterans in Minnesota, close to 4,000, will experience an episode of homelessness or an event that could lead to homelessness this year. The nonprofit MACV is there to assist them. For more information, go to www.mac-v.org.