Helping a veteran: Flu shots, haircuts, clothing among offerings at annual resource fair

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Sometimes a good haircut can improve someone’s day.

But affordable housing, quality health care and legal support can make a world of difference, too.

On Friday, Linn County veterans were welcomed to the 11th annual Five Seasons Stand Down and Resource Fair at Veterans Memorial Stadium for all those services, and more.

The fair aims to assist any veteran, but with a particular focus on homeless and nearly homeless veterans.

“What we try to do in this resource fair is to hit all areas of their life. That’s what we’re here for,” said Don Tyne, director of the Linn County Veterans Affairs and founder of the resource fair.

The event kicked off at 8 a.m. with free classes on budgeting, resume writing, substance abuse and other topics.

Starting at noon, the stadium concourse had more than 70 community organizations and services offering assistance to the 100-plus veterans who showed up.

Veterans were able to get flu shots from Linn County Public Health, a haircut from Great Clips stylists, sweaters from Cotton Gallery and more — all for free.

Army veteran Rick Gooden, 63, of Cedar Rapids, said he’s attended the resource fair for the last several years. The event is where he gets his only haircut of the year.

He believes the fair is a day to honor and remember those who served.

“It’s a way to give back to people who served,” he said.

Tyne said the event was initially only for homeless veterans but has evolved to include any veteran.

More than 220,000 veterans live in Iowa — about 200 of them homeless, according to the Housing Assistance Council Veterans Data Central.

Gooden said he was homeless for 10 days in 2015, staying on friends’ couches before he was accepted into the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program through the Veterans Affairs office. Now, he lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Cedar Rapids.

Sonia Kendrick, the founder of Feed Iowa First and an Army veteran who was deployed to Afghanistan, volunteered at the fair.

“This is how I serve my country now,” Kendrick said.

Tyne said the fair is funded through events held throughout the year and a $3,000 donation from Transamerica Life Insurance Company in Cedar Rapids.

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