Sam Luptak Jr.
New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
Helping homeless veterans was the goal Saturday at Cascade Park.
Bands played the military service themes, dozens of social service agencies, volunteers, veterans organizations and government assistance programs were on hand, and food and giveaways were plentiful at the second annual Veterans Stand Down in the park pavilion.
“During war,” co-founder and co-chairman Gary Zarilla explained, “a soldier would, after a certain amount of time on the lines, be taken back to the rear. There he would be allowed to rest, get food and any new clothes he needed, any health care necessary, etc. This was called a ‘Stand Down.’
“Our event is trying to do the same thing: bring our vets, especially our homeless and broken vets, back to our community. We are trying to provide some of the same things; food, health care, counseling, shelter, clothes.”
Among those on hand to dispense these things were the City Rescue Mission, healthcare providers such as Primary Healthcare Network and Gateway Health Plan, and various counseling services that offered free health screenings and assistance to get off the streets.
A food kitchen was available, offering hot dogs, meatball sandwiches, pasta, potatoes, salad, dessert and drinks at no charge to anyone who wanted it. Sandra Wilder, president of the District 25 of Veterans of Foreign Wars, organized and cooked all the food, while volunteers from the VFW, teens from the Civil Air Patrol and various others served it throughout the day. All the food was donated, Wilder explained, and any cash donations given for the food at the event will be returned to the Stand Down committee so that it can continue to help the homeless vets of the area.
The American Legion Riders of Butler sponsored and ran a surplus clothing giveaway for the homeless vets and others in need. They received surplus socks, gloves, jackets, shirts, pants, blankets, sleeping bags and even.
A tribute to those lost on 9/11 was followed by a number of speakers, the playing of the national anthem, special musical numbers by Dr. Anthony Geramita, a moment of silence for all the soldiers lost and finally, the retiring of the colors by the Marine Corps League.
“Our goal (for this event) is to do many of the same things the Stand Downs (during the war) did,” Zarilla said. “We want to offer aid, assistance and comfort to the men who served in a place and a manor in which they will feel comfortable.”