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Stand Down event helps veterans in many ways

By: Brody Fernandez, Lead Reporter for South Placer
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Placer Veterans Stand Down supports local veterans by providing free services, including meals, overnight shelter, medical, dental, vision, haircuts and showers, housing and employment assistance, child support services, clothes, VA benefits assistance and veterinary services.

The nonprofit organization held its annual Stand Down event @theGrounds in Roseville from Tuesday to today for all veterans and their families.

Former Coast Guard Medical Corpsman and Stand Down volunteer veteran Robert Elster was helped by the organization.

“At one point, I was living in a homeless shelter but the services provided here helped me through that tough process,”  Elster said. “A lot of these homeless veterans need serious healthcare and treatment. Health care is everything for these guys and it’s life changing.”

Elster now has stable housing, adequate health care and he is pursuing a career in nursing at Sierra College. 

Placer Veterans Stand Down CEO Brigadier General Bob Hipwell, said the organization’s most requested need is dental health care.

Emergency physician Mike Luszczak, also known as “Doctor Mike,,”was a colonel physician overseas in Iraq and is Stand Down’s board vice-president.

“We now have 16 dental bed stations here at our event. When we kicked this off for our first year, we had two dental stations which were inside an old remodeled van,” Luszczak said. “Just look how far we have come as an organization since then.”

“There are a lot of veterans out there on the edge in terms of finances as a result of high housing prices or the high cost of healthcare and medicine,” Luszczak said. “For those veterans severely struggling in those areas financially, it doesn’t take much to push them over that edge, leading to homelessness or worse scenarios.”

Placer Veterans Stand Down is committed to outreach and advocacy for local veterans.

“One of our main goals is to partner with organizations that offer veteran services,” said service provider director and board member Melissa Washington. “It’s very important to us that we get veterans in here and set up with as many benefit opportunities as possible, so that they can get the ball rolling. We really want our veterans out there to know that this isn’t just an annual event of awareness and advocacy. We want them to reach out to the Placer County Veteran Services Office where they can be directly linked up with one of our partnering service members.”

The nonprofit organization also offers legal services for veterans.

“What we do is pretty much bring the courts to them by offering legal representation that handles court hearings and other legal affairs that may be outside of Placer County in an effort to provide an easier, more manageable process for them altogether,” Washington said.

Awareness and information on Placer Veterans Stand Down has been growing rapidly over the years due to  media/publicity director/board member Sue Bartholomew.

“If there’s a struggling individual out there that is in dire need of healthcare services and they see a television ad or an ad in the paper about us, I’m doing my job,” Washington said. “My only hope is that they reach out and engage in the services we provide them with.”

Secretary Stand Down coordinator/board member Ellie Ramsey values her hours working with the organization.

“I couldn’t think of a better way of spending my free time, than to dedicate it to our most valued and underappreciated group in our society, our country’s veterans,” Ramsey said. 

For more information on Placer Veterans Stand Down, see placerveteransstanddown.org or call 916-969-0320.