Group provides medical check-ups, mental health support, food and clothes
By Hunter Hine, Staff Writer
(May 4, 2023) The Ocean Pines Community Center held the weekend’s final Stand Down event to serve at-risk veterans on Sunday, after organizers held one in Cambridge on Friday and another in Salisbury on Saturday.
At Stand Down events, Veteran Affairs staff and local organizations serve veterans in need, providing them with food, clothes and medical check-ups, while also connecting them with housing and employment opportunities, substance abuse treatment and mental health support among other services, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
“It’s open to any veteran, active duty service member, their families, and what we do is try to provide local resources for our veterans for many things from homelessness, to behavioral health services, to job placement, you name it,” said Dina Karpf, eastern regional resource coordinator of Maryland’s Commitment to Veterans, who helped organize the event. “We had a little bit of everything.”
Gregory Bisset, a veteran himself who does healthcare outreach for homeless veterans at the VA, also helped organize the event.
Bisset said the event was open to all veterans, but emphasizes a focus on homeless veterans, vets who had other than honorable discharge and may not qualify for all VA services, and veterans who simply haven’t taken advantage of the resources available to them.
Around 30-50 veterans showed out to the community center, Karpf said. She estimated that there were around 100-150 attending veterans across all three days.
The event was originally planned to happen at the Worcester County Veterans Memorial Park in Ocean Pines, but because of weather concerns, it was moved inside the Ocean Pines Community Center, Karpf said.
Snow Hill native Brig. Gen. Janeen Birckhead, who recently assumed responsibility as 31st Adjutant General of Maryland, attended the event both in her capacity as the new adjutant general and as someone from the Eastern Shore, she said.
Birckhead said that while Stand Down events also happen in dense urban areas like Baltimore, veterans there are much closer to resources like the Baltimore VA medical center. The need for veteran outreach is often much greater in rural areas such as the Eastern Shore, given that brick-and-mortar veteran resources are scarce, she said.
“There’s always a need because there are homeless veterans in the area, but the VA and the local services that work together do a really really good job in trying to get them housed as quickly as possible,” Karpf said.
Among the organizations set-up at tables throughout the community center were River Oak Day Center, VA Caregiver Support, Maryland Legal Aid, Maryland Access Point, the Maryland Department of Labor Veterans Services and the Vet Center.
For more information on Stand Down events, visit https://www.va.gov/homeless/events.asp. Veterans in need can call the Maryland’s Commitment to Veterans 24/7 hotline at 1-877-770-4801.