By Rebecca Kensil, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Nonprofit Veterans Inc. hosted its eighth annual Stand Down June 14 and 15, a weekend event at Independence Hall where in-need and homeless veterans and their families receive services to improve their quality of life.
The term “stand down” was originally used during the Vietnam War to describe when combat troops were taken off the field after battle and given cover so they could rest, relax, and recover.
Many providers attended this event to help veterans recover. In addition to services offered in previous years such as legal, financial, housing, and clothing resources, the nonprofit arranged new services this year such as optometry and dental care.
Other services offered included acupuncture, a podiatry clinic, a barber shop, and a food pantry. A career fair, started last year, was also part of the event. This year 20 companies attended seeking to hire veterans.
“We had at least five veterans hired on the spot here yesterday along with many more that will have an opportunity to go to work,” Richard Turner, director of employment and training at Veterans Inc., said.
Raffles and giveaway prizes were other features of the event. Veterans Inc. bought New Balance sneakers for every veteran this year since many commute by foot or bicycle.
“A lot of the veterans we work with haven's got a license for one reason or another, so they can's currently drive,” Turner explained.
To help veterans commute, the organization also gave away bikes. In addition, through the Veterans Inc. program, Vehicle for Vets, one veteran received a donated Ford pickup truck worth $13,000. To be eligible for that truck, veterans had to write an essay about how they were turning around their life around through work or school.
This event is made possible by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Labor,? which finance about half the costs. Private donations fund the rest.
This year was their biggest turnout yet, according to Turner, who said over 400 veterans came to the tents, 100 more than last year.
“It is only getting bigger and better every year,” he said.
Volunteer Donald Brickman helped with traffic the first day and later described a busy scene. “People were coming in from all over the place,” he said. “Big turnout. We pulled in veterans from not just Massachusetts, but
other states too.”
“It is an amazing and gratifying day,” Turner said.