Armstrong to 'stand down' for local vets

| Monday, Sept. 9, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

FORD CITY — Stand down! The words, sometimes spoken as a command to active duty military personnel, were welcome words, especially to those serving in combat zones.

Although the actual words will not be spoken on Sept.14, a “stand down” will be in full operation in Heritage Park from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Gulf Co. 128 BSB, Army National Guard and the Mechling Shakley Veterans' Center have teamed up to bring the second annual stand down to Armstrong County.

According to Sgt. Jennifer Blake, event coordinator, although the stand down is primarily for military veterans, the event is also for all homeless people and county residents who may be in danger of losing their homes or having serious financial or domestic problems.

“The ultimate goal of the stand down is simply to help everyone who needs help, whether they are veterans or not,” Blake said. “We will be there to help those who want to be helped primarily by putting them in touch with the appropriate agencies such as the American Red Cross, the County Assistance Program, Salvation Army or various counseling agencies.”

In addition to these agencies, other organizations will include the Department of Housing and Development, Armstrong County Tourist Bureau, a nurse team, a Veterans Administration medical/dental team and a VA Homeless Outreach Team.

Light refreshments will be served, and free haircuts will be available. Opening ceremonies start at 9 a.m. with the Armstrong County American Legion Honor Guard and a contingent of the Civil Air Patrol. Musical entertainment will begin at 1 p.m.

Sean Taladay, executive director of the Mechling Shakley Veterans Center, Cowansville, said last year's stand down was held at the Center on Route 268. However, this year's event was moved to Ford City to reach more people. Taladay reiterated that although military veterans are the focal point, helping homeless people and struggling families in general is the priority. Taladay sits on the Southwest Regional Homeless Advisory Board and added that being homeless doesn't necessarily mean not having a place to live.

“There are a number of people in our own region who, for whatever reason, may have lost or cannot live in their own home and are staying with friends or family,” he said.

A vital goal of stand down is to link and provide people access to all service providers in Armstrong and surrounding counties. Taladay added that community involvement is necessary for the goals of stand down to be reached.

“Government funding that normally goes to many of the agencies geared to helping people is drying up,” he said. “There are major funding cutbacks in all areas. So it's very important for us as a community to pull together, not on a political level, but on a humanitarian one, to help those less fortunate than others.

“A wise man once said that if you give, you'll never need. We are trying to create a community awareness. I'd like to urge everyone to stop by on Sept. 14 and see what we're trying to accomplish.”

Blake said monetary donations may be sent to: Pa. National Guard, 108 Valley View Drive, Ford City, PA 16226. She said that anyone can help by volunteering their time, either at the stand down or afterward. Those interested in volunteering may contact Blake at 724-763-1501.

Tom Mitchell is a correspondent for the Leader Times.

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