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PANEL SEEKING TO HELP A.V. VETERANS.

Byline: BETTIE RENCORET Senior columnist

LANCASTER - Enthusiasm is mounting among members of the Antelope Valley Homeless Veterans Stand Down Committee after a recent trip to Ventura to learn from a group with 11 years of experience in holding the events.

A stand down is a grass-roots, community-based intervention program designed to help homeless veterans combat life on the streets. Locally, the event is planned Oct. 3-5 at Antelope Valley College, offering links with social services agencies and other services.

``We found out we're pretty well organized so far. What we need most right now are volunteers and money,'' chairman Steve Baker said at an executive board meeting Monday night at Grace Resource Center.

The hand up, not a handout, philosophy of Stand Down is carried out through the work of volunteers and organizations nationwide.

Baker said the committee must now concentrate on publicity and fund raising.

Co-chairman Tom Craft pointed out that Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3000 in Quartz Hill, has already donated money.

Baker and Craft were at the Post meeting last week when Cmdr. Bill Eldridge and Auxiliary President Jane Gordon presented Baker with $1,000 - $500 from each group.

``We are truly gratified at the support of Post 3000 and its auxiliary,'' Craft said. ``If all of the veterans organizations here and the local businesses will come through with this kind of help we should be able to pull it off with no sweat.''

He said he'd been thinking the committee ``might be biting off more than we can chew, but after seeing how they put theirs together in Ventura we found out it's not going to be that tough.''

Baker and recording secretary George Palermo gave reports on the Ventura trip.

``The trick is to keep it simple,'' Baker said. ``Everything is meant to make our attendees feel secure and unthreatened. We want every one of them to be comfortable with, and understand, the necessity for rules at the Stand Down.'' There will be security personnel on site but no uniformed deputies, he said, ``because uniforms tend to intimidate. Everyone will be given guidelines when they enter. There won't be any mystery about what they can expect.''

All religious services will be voluntary and available to the extent that appropriate clergy is obtained to conduct them.

``We're still looking for a Catholic priest who is a veteran to hear confessions, possibly say a Mass and offer communion,'' Palermo said.

Jewish and Protestant leaders plan to lead services and Hoffman House Hospice also has offered to help.

``Other faiths who can supply veteran pastors will also be included,'' Palmermo said. ``We don't want to exclude anyone.''

Medical services will be provided by the Veterans Affairs of Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System that will send a team of 35, including nurse practitioners, nurses, social workers and a doctor.

On Aug. 23, the committee will stage a Homeless Veterans Barbecue at Grace Resource Center, 45134 Sierra Highway, as a prelude to the event.

``We want to welcome all homeless vets to this barbecue so that they can see what we're like. We'd like them to sign up for the Stand Down, too, so we can get an approximate head count. We'd like to know about how many we can count on so we'll have enough supplies on hand,'' Baker said. Craft added that after the trip to Ventura he is better able to envision the project as a successful first attempt.

``Now I can see that it's all very do-able and this will be the first of many Antelope Valley Stand Downs,'' he said.

Menus for the week at the senior life nutrition sites in Lancaster and Palmdale have been announced. All meals include bread, margarine and coffee, tea or milk for a suggested donation of $2. Reservations at least a day in advance are now required.

Monday: Hearty beef stew, corn, marinated salad, corn bread,grape juice, pears.

Tuesday: Barbecued pork or fish fillet, au gratin potatoes, green beans, juice, fiesta coleslaw, Jell-O with pineapple.

Wednesday: Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, cooked cabbage, carrot salad, cranberry juice, cake.

Thursday: Spaghetti and meatballs, mixed vegetables, tossed salad,apple juice, vanilla ice cream.

Friday: Oven-fried chicken, baked potato, winter squash, lettuce and tomato salad, banana.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Steve Baker, right, chairman of the Antelope Valley Homeless Veterans Stand Down Committee, receives donations from Cmdr. Bill Eldridge of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3000 and Jane Gordon, president of Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary.

Bettie Rencoret/Special to the Daily News
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 28, 2003
Words:752
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