Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System
New Orleans VA Stand Down offers comfort, hope
On October 26, the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System hosted its annual Stand Down for Homeless Veterans. Over 300 Veterans received medical treatment, services and supplies to help improve their health and well-being. It was a huge undertaking, but the hundreds of VA employees and volunteers on hand were up to the task. It was a tremendous display of appreciation for Veterans who are less fortunate.
“Caring for homeless Veterans at our Stand Down is critical to our mission to help disadvantaged Veterans maintain their health and find stable housing,” said Medical Center Director Fernando Rivera. “We’re honored to be able to provide these services, and grateful to have such enthusiastic support from our community of partners.”
The first Veterans were lined up before the event’s 9 a.m. start. They were greeted by volunteers from the Military Order of the Purple Heart, who served them coffee and donuts donated by Elks Lodge 30. The Elks were a big supporter of the Stand Down, also providing volunteers, manicure supplies and dessert.
“The Elks have been helping Veterans since 1917,” noted Elks Veterans Service Commission Chairman Don Baye. “I’m a Vietnam Veteran myself, and as an Elk, I’m proud to be able to serve my fellow Veterans.
Red Cross volunteers acted as escorts, guiding Veterans through the facility. Dr. Tom Todd of the Red Cross coordinated their efforts that day. Many of the members of his group had volunteered for previous Stand Downs and came back because of the rewarding feeling that comes from doing such meaningful work.
“Every one [of our volunteers] who has done the Stand Down does it again every year, said Todd. “It’s such a thrilling event to come out here and connect with Veterans who served the country.”
After the Veterans registered, they visited VA health care professionals from primary care, mental health, dental, podiatry and other specialties. The Veterans who attended valued the opportunity to have so many of their health care needs attended to in one visit to the medical center.
“I came in today to get my flu shot and get a checkup,” explained Army Veteran Chris Farrell. “I also made an appointment for an eye exam.”
Veterans who attended the Stand Down met with representatives from VA and other agencies who assisted them with resources such as housing assistance and substance use treatment. Then they made their way outside where volunteers were on hand to make the day special for everyone who attended.
Located in tents in front of the medical center were necessities such as clothing and non-perishable food items. Some of the Veterans treated themselves to a free manicure or haircut performed by volunteers from Delgado Community College.
A hot lunch was served courtesy of the Veterans Canteen Service, Elks, Cane’s and Coca-Cola. Larry Burkart, who volunteered as DJ, played upbeat music. Some of the Veterans joined in dancing with VA employees and volunteers.
As the afternoon ended, Veterans left feeling restored, hopeful and valued.
“It made me feel appreciated,” Farrell added. “I served a long time ago and it’s great to know the country still appreciates us.”
See a short video of the event here: 2019 New Orleans VA Stand Down.