Stand Down helps veterans stand up

Community-based program provides veterans with food, shelter, and assistance with social services

(from left) Andrew Holling of Iowa City, an Army veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, smiles as Capri College cosmetology
(from left) Andrew Holling of Iowa City, an Army veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, smiles as Capri College cosmetology student Holly Johnson gets some assistance from cosmetology instructor Tiffany Kurka cutting Holling's hair at The Five Seasons Stand Down at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids on Friday, September 9, 2011. (Cliff Jette/SourceMedia Group)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Don Tyne remembers the first Stand Down event he attended.

“When I was hired 12 years ago, I was encouraged to visit the Quad Cities Stand Down,” says Tyne, director of Linn County Veteran Affairs.

Making his way through crowds of veterans lined up for free haircuts, legal assistance and employment advice, Tyne decided it was time for Linn County veterans to have access to the same resources.

On Friday, the eighth annual Five Seasons Stand Down for homeless and near-homeless veterans and nonveterans will be held Veterans Memorial Stadium, 950 Rockford Rd. SW.

Stand Down is a military term used when exhausted combat units come off the battlefield to rest and recover in a place of safety. Today, Stand Down also refers to a community-based program that provides homeless and near-homeless veterans with food, shelter, clothing, basic medical exams, and assistance or referrals for social services, such as housing, legal matters and job counseling.

The first Stand Down was organized in 1988 by a group of Vietnam veterans in San Diego, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Cedar Rapids event, which runs 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., is a coordinated effort between Linn County Veteran Affairs, veteran organizations, government, and community agencies that serve the homeless and near homeless. The mission, Tyne says, is to connect individuals to needed services.

The Five Seasons Stand Down includes a Resource Fair; classes; assistance in accessing benefits, services, medical services, employment services, housing services, legal services; and amenities such as breakfast, lunch and free haircuts. More than 65 programs will be involved in this year’s event — a number that increases every year as do the number of people served, Tyne says.

Stand Down is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Linn County Board of Supervisor, Witwer Trust and by donations. It is free, but preregistration is encouraged at Linn County General Assistance, 1240 26th Ave. Court SW; Linn County Veteran Affairs, 1240 26th Ave. Court SW; and the VA Outreach Center 1535 First Ave. SE. Participants also can register the day of the event from 8 to 10 a.m.

“What I’ve been really impressed with over the years is how it helps people,” Tyne says. “It’s a one-stop shop for a lot of things. It really improves the quality of their lives.”Volunteers are still needed. To volunteer, call Cheryl King at (319) 892-5784.

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