By ELISE McKEOWN SKOLNICK
It seemed like a party: a giant tent in the street and music blasting. But it was more than that. The Mahoning and Trumbull County Regional Veteran Stand Down, sponsored by the United Methodist Community Center, provided information and more to veterans.
“It’s an employment and service fair for homeless veterans, giving them the opportunity to know what is available to them in the community,” said Juanita Pasley, executive director of the center.
The event on Front Street and inside Trinity United Methodist Church on Saturday provided veterans with haircuts, a hot meal, health screenings and information.
A variety of vendors, including the YWCA of Youngstown, Youngstown State University Office of Veterans Affairs, Youngs-town Metropolitan Housing Authority and the Help Hotline Crisis Center, participated.
A grant from the U.S. Department of Labor funded the first-time event.
Often, servicemen are seen reuniting with happy families once they return home, Pasley said.
“But the people we work with are families that are dismantled,” she said.
The veterans often drop out of sight, she added.
“The jobs are not to be found. They don’t have jobs. They don’t have housing and so they kind of drop out of the community,” she said. “So this is to get them back into the world of work and the world of readiness.”
Oscar Dahn of Youngs-town served on a naval ship in Afghanistan.
When he returned home in 2004, it was difficult to find a job and to receive medical help, he said.
The Stand Down event is “beautiful,” he said. “I like it.”
Though he has found a job since returning, he said the event helped those who haven’t or who don’t have a home.
He also said it shows that people care about veterans.
“So that’s cool,” Dahn said.
Leroy Davenport of Youngstown served in the Marines from 1969 to 1972. “I was fortunate,” he said. “There was no problem getting a job back then, in ’72. It’s hard now. It’s hard to find work.”
Events such as Stand Down help, he said.
“There are a lot of homeless veterans — veterans in need,” he said.
Many, he said, are suffering from drug addiction or thinking about committing suicide.
“It’s a good thing people come out to help them,” Davenport said.
The United Methodist Community Center has facilities in Mahoning and Trumbull counties.
The mission of the organization is to teach, develop and empower individuals and their families through delivery of critical services in such areas as education, employment and physical fitness/health.