At 10 a.m. on a cold Friday morning, American Red Cross volunteers gathered together to support San Antonio’s Homeless Veteran population at the 22nd annual Stand Down for Veterans hosted by the American GI Forum National Veterans Outreach Program (NVOP).
The Stand Down is a one-day event in which organizations gather together to provide homeless veterans with various resources and supplies, such as free flu shots, food, haircuts, housing assistance, hygiene products, clothing, assistance with veterans benefits, and information about local programs and services available to them.
The event also gives Red Cross volunteers the opportunity to serve former military service members in need, a group near and dear to volunteer, Celeste Carrola’s heart. Celeste served for 40 years in the Department of Defense’s Air Force division as civilian, “so I have a certain connection with the military,” Celeste said.
Although she usually volunteers with the Red Cross Disaster Action Team she decided to join our Service to the Armed Forces event to support and thank our former military service members.
Joe Campbell, who has volunteered with the Red Cross of 20 years, marked his third consecutive Stand Down this year. A Vietnam-era veteran, he helped pass out comfort kits full of essential toiletries such as soap, shampoo, razors, and lip balm to fellow veterans. “Ahh, I love it,” Joe said after he assisted a homeless veteran with his bags. Events such as this proudly display the camaraderie and support established in the military, something Joe loves to continue through his volunteer experiences. “I love helping,” Joe said.
This was also Lucy Medina’s first time volunteering for the Stand Down event. A 20 year Air Force retiree, she has continued serving her country for the last three years as a Red Cross Volunteer. “I serve wherever I can,” she said with a smile.
A few minutes later, Lucy greeted a veteran who walked up to the table, handed him a black bag with the emblematic Red Cross and a thank you card from the Thank a Hero Program. As he reached for the items, he looked her in the eyes, tilted his head down slightly, and thanked her.
If you would like to serve veterans in your community, reach out to your local Service to the Armed Forces representative for opportunities in your area or visit our website at https://www.redcross.org/volunteer