ABILENE– The Military Partnership for West Central Texas, facilitated by the United Way of Abilene, alongside than more than 30 other organizations addressing the needs of military families in West Central Texas will present the Big Country Veterans Stand Down and Benefits Fair this Saturday, Sept. 15, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Goodwill West Texas on 2200 N. First St.
Big Country Stand Down provides a one-stop avenue to connect homeless veterans with the food and resources they need, as well as prepare them for the winter months.
According to Scotty Henderson, U.S. Army veteran and chairman for the Military Partnership for West Central Texas, this is the second year for this event in Abilene. Last year, Big Country Stand Down served 64 homeless veterans, more than 200-housed veterans and had nearly 100 volunteers. This year, the Partnership is hoping for a higher turnout of both housed and homeless veterans with attendees having greater access to community resources.
“This week marks the11th anniversary of 9/11, making it the perfect time to recognize those who have sacrificed so much for us,” said Henderson. “It’s hard to come back after serving our country, and through the combined efforts of all the organizations and sponsors involved, this benefits fair is one of the ways to help get veterans back on their feet.”
Big Country Stand Down will have everything from special services and offerings for all veterans, but especially for homeless veterans, such as food, clothing, haircuts, bus passes, hygiene kits and housing assistance, to resources from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), including VA enrollment, employment assistance, health and wellness screenings, legal assistance, community resources for disabled veterans, chaplaincy and more.
Special attention will be given to ensure attending veterans are registered for the VA benefits they have earned. According to the VA, there is a current population of 11,909 veterans in Taylor County, with only 24 percent of the veteran population enrolled to receive benefits from their military service.
This event is made possible by sponsors, including ALON Brands, Bill Reed Distributing and Miller High Life, which are providing food, resources and financial support for Big Country Stand Down.
Bill Reed Distributing, a local Miller High Life Distributor in Abilene, made arrangements for a Miller High Life promotion that will provide funds needed for key services for the veterans. A portion of sales, up to $5,000, of Miller High Life for the months of August and September will be donated to the United Way of Abilene, helping to cover the costs of Big Country Stand Down, such as purchasing bus passes for the homeless veterans.
“With last year’s program being a great success, we decided to bring back the Miller High Life fundraiser benefitting veterans,” said Charles Hughes, general manager for Bill Reed Distributing. “Our goal is to give returning veterans a piece of their lives back that they lost between their service and return, and Big Country Stand Down was the perfect cause to support with the money raised.”
In addition, ALON Brands and its vendors will provide refreshments throughout the day of the event, as well as hygiene kits for the homeless veterans.
“We’re honored to play a role in assisting veterans during this community event,” said John West, vice president of marketing for ALON Brands. “In an event like this with the Military Partnership for West Central Texas, we’re also helping to provide food, resources and hope for the veterans’ families after their loved one has made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.”
Gates open at 9 a.m., followed by a formal program of presentations:
Hot Topic Presentations (15 minutes each)
9:30 a.m. – Job Search, Joe Slack, Texas Veterans Commission
10 a.m. - Veterans Benefits, Jim DeFoor, Taylor County Veterans Service Officer
10:30 a.m. - Housing Supportive Services, Darrell Jordan, VA
11 a.m. - Welcome ceremony, featuring the Abilene Community Band
12 p.m. – Veterans appreciation, featuring community leaders and “Not Forgotten”coins
On Saturday, the doors will be open to all veterans with on-site registration. For more information, contact West Texas VA Health Care System at 1-800-472-1365 or the Military Partnership of West Central Texas at 325-676-7065 ext.1.