SIERRA VISTA — A steady stream of veterans visited the Mall at Sierra Vista on Friday for the seventh annual Veterans Resource Fair.
Organized by Cochise Serving Veterans (CSV), the one-day event provided a wide range of resources and information for in-need veterans and their families.
“There are a lot of veterans in this area who could use help, but have no idea what resources are available,” said Harry Bowen, chair of Cochise Serving Veterans. “That’s why we’re here. This resource fair is organized to help all veterans who have questions about the services and benefits they’re entitled to. We’re here to point them in the right direction and help them find the assistance they need.”
Multiple providers were on hand Friday to answer questions and talk to veterans face-to-face about the services they offer. From housing assistance to clothing, behavioral health services, medical, dental and veterinary help for pets, the list of resources is extensive, Bowen said.
“It takes collaboration from multiple agencies and nonprofits for an event like this,” said Melanie Sebastian, who chairs the resource fair. “I love the way this whole community comes together to help serve those who have served us. It’s very rewarding when we’re able to make a difference in the lives of veterans by connecting them to the services they need.”
Ken Jones is one of several veterans that has benefitted from the resource fair and the nonprofits that make it a success.
“When I first started coming to this fair, I was homeless and had did not know where to go for help,” he said. “This is a great place with wonderful people who want to make a difference. I now have an apartment, clothes, food, a bicycle, everything I need.”
While more than 100 veterans have attended past resource fairs, COVID caused the number to drop off this year.
“Based on our final count, we had 56 veterans, which is down from previous years,” Sebastian said. “We really weren’t sure what to expect.”
For those requesting it, free round-trip transportation was arranged from communities all over the county, making it possible for all interested veterans to attend the event. In addition, veterans were provided with breakfast from Schlotzsky’s and lunch from Texas Roadhouse.
Carol Welsh, who chairs the Veterans Social Support Services (S3) committee, was busy serving up food, while answering questions.
“The S3 division helps veterans by providing financial assistance and support with special needs,” she said. “We place an emphasis on homeless and veterans with families. This fair is a great way to get everyone together so we can see the veterans who need assistance so we can help them.”
While there are multiple veterans organizations ready to help with a wide range of resources, it’s sometimes difficult to know how to reach the veterans who need services, Sebastian said.
“That’s why this fair is such a great resource. It’s a way to reach the vets that need assistance, but are too proud to ask for help.”
Veterans who were unable to attend the resource fair are urged to stop by the Cochise Serving Veterans office which is based out of The Warrior Healing Center at 1838 Paseo San Luis in Sierra Vista. Hours are from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.
“Cochise Serving Veterans is one of 42 veterans organizations working out of the Warrior Healing Center, so it’s a valuable starting point for veterans who are looking for information” Bowen said. “The different service groups work together to provide support to veterans and their families.”
Veterans also get assistance with paperwork and are directed to the providers they need to talk to, Bowen said. “We want to help, but we need veterans to reach out to us, which is why events like the fair and facilities like the Warrior Healing Center are so important.”
Marine Corps veteran Ross McClellan drove from Naco to attend the fair.
“I’m glad I attended this event,” he said. “I got a flu shot while I was here and I filled out paperwork to correct my DD214 form, which is something I really wanted to do. This event was very helpful for the networking and support.”
Around 40 different nonprofit organizations participated in Friday’s fair.
“This resource fair and the nonprofits that participate in it are run by committees of volunteers,” Bowen said. “It’s a passion for us.”