Center expands its role in helping local veterans

Group takes over as organizer of annual stand-down event

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter



For information

Contact the Clark County Veterans Assistance Center at 1305 Columbia St.; call 360-693-7030; or email ccvac@questoffice...

If you go

What: 2012 Veterans Stand-Down.

Where: Armed Forces Reserve Center, 15005 N.E. 65th St.

When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Shuttles: From West Sixth Street and Esther Short Park to the stand-down and back.

The Clark County Veterans Assistance Center is expanding its outreach, taking over as organizer of Wednesday's veterans "stand-down."

The annual event is open to all veterans in need and their family members. It provides such immediate services as meals, haircuts, clothing, bedding, and health and dental screenings.

It also is an opportunity to meet representatives of agencies that offer long-term resources including veterans benefits, employment services, housing assistance and counseling.

In addition to a new organizing group, Wednesday's stand-down will be in a new spot -- the Armed Forces Reserve Center, 15005 N.E. 65th St. The base just south of Fourth Plain Boulevard and Ward Road, where military units relocated after leaving Vancouver Barracks in September 2011, looks to be a suitable host.

The Armed Forces Reserve Center is providing space for the event at no charge and also is a handy shipment point for supplies donated by the Department of Defense.

"They sent 28 pallets, including sleeping bags and sleeping mats,"

said Joe Fettig, a Veterans Assistance Center volunteer who is organizing the stand-down. "They unloaded it right there."

Volunteer Bob Nichols estimates that the stand-down could serve as many as 200 veterans, after the two previous events at the Vancouver Elks Lodge in Cascade Park each drew about 180. The 2009 stand-down was at Pearson Air Museum.

"We're finding that veterans are coming from as far south as Springfield, Ore., so somehow word is getting around," Nichols said.

While it is geared for Clark County veterans, Nichols said, "We won't turn anyone away."

Fettig and Nichols are among about 40 volunteers who are part of the Clark County Veterans Assistance Center, 1305 Columbia St.

The nonprofit agency's mission includes helping former military personnel reintegrate into the community; their transition to civilian life can include unemployment, health problems, family issues and homelessness.

The assistance center, which moved into its downtown office in April 2010, also helps veterans and their families connect with Veterans Affairs programs and community-based services.

"We offer a chance to line up a contact and make an appointment," Fettig said. "If we can get help for one person a day, we've done our job."

Fettig and his colleagues might be able to use Wednesday's stand-down to work with vets who are reluctant to contact government agencies.

"Some of them are pretty shy," Fettig said. "They are used to being kicked around."

If one of them comes to the stand-down just looking for a hot meal or some clothes, maybe a volunteer can introduce him -- or her -- to an agency official who can help.

Fettig said organizers are hoping to see more women veterans at the stand-down.

"There are a lot of them in Clark County," Fettig said. If there is something of particular value to women veterans, they should ask about it, Fettig said, and stand-down organizers will try to have it available next year.

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558;;