NASA Education Provides Services for 110 Veterans at Stand Down

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One hundred and ten U.S. veterans who were displaced, disabled, homeless or otherwise in need received services at the Stand Down for Veterans which took place October 8 and 9, 2007 at YMCA Camp Algonquin in McHenry County, Illinois. John Blanchard, executive director of Crystgal Lake-based NASA Education, the sponsoring organization, reported that as of November 1, 12 homeless veterans had been placed in stable housing, 36 unemployed veterans had received employment services, 11 received legal counseling, 50 veterans had received information on community services for benefits such as food stamps and housing assistance, and 60 received free haircuts from volunteer hairstylists.

Executive Director John Blanchard of National Association of Systems Administrators Education Corporation (NASA Education), a Crystal Lake-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, sponsors of the Stand Down for Veterans held October 8 and 9 at YMCA Camp Algonquin, has released the preliminary results for the event, which provided 110 veterans with services ranging from housing and employment services to haircuts and massages and featured welcome speeches by Congressman Donald Manzullo and Congresswoman Melissa Bean.

"The Stand Down is more than a two-day, feel-good event for the veterans," said Blanchard. "Certainly, one of the purposes is to express our gratitude and support for veterans in need and show them a good time, but, more than that, the intent is to help the homeless veterans secure housing, the unemployed veterans receive training and work, and generally remove the barriers that keep our nation's heroes from enjoying the benefits of American life they gave so much to secure for all of us.

"People think each Stand Down is history once the speeches are over, the kitchen is cleaned up, the clothes are given away and the shuttle buses pull out of the camp parking lots, but for us the work is just beginning," he said. "Now we follow up with the veterans to help them change their lives. We've already scheduled the next Stand Down for March 31 and April 1."

As of November 1, which was for U.S. veterans who are newly discharged, disabled, displaced, homeless, unemployed, elderly or otherwise in need of services, 12 formerly homeless veterans received permanent housing, 2 received competitive wage employment, 36 received employment services, 19 were registered with the Illinois Skills Match, 7 were accepted into NASA Education's workforce and community reintegration program, Project Fresh Start, and 11 received legal counseling or services.

The following applications were made: 5 for VA disability benefits, 1 for VA pension, 10 for DD214 separation papers, 3 for upgrades to military discharge, 2 hunting/fishing licenses, and 14 registrations into VA Medical Care system. Fifteen veterans consulted with the North Chicago VA Medical Center nurse at Stand Down, and 3 were identified as appropriate candidates for the North Chicago VA Domiciliary Program. Information on how to appeal VA claims was given to 2 veterans and 3 veterans were given assistance in following up on cases. Five veterans received referrals for financial assistance through the McHenry County and Kane County Veterans Assistance Commissions. Three OIF/OEF veterans received counseling on VA benefits available to them. One veteran applied to replace a lost GED certificate.

Fifty veterans were given information about community social service agencies, 28 homeless, unemployed or very low-income veterans applied for dental services and 37 applied for referrals for eye exams and glasses.

Volunteer hairstylists Melissa Adams and Marie Borre from SportClips Haircuts and Krissy Dougherty Chazio's Salon gave 60 free haircuts, volunteer massage therapist Sheryl Roberts of Changing Lifestyles/You Need to be Kneaded gave 50 massages and Lesley Delihant of Trinity Therapeutics gave 9 massages. Healing Touch practitioner Peggy Dickson gave 9 sessions. Clothes, coats, new underwear, toiletries and other items were distributed to the veterans. Twenty-three male and two female veterans stayed overnight in the camp residence halls, and meals and snacks were provided over the two days.

Financial support for the Stand Down for Veterans was provided by grants from the Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS)/Department of Labor and the HelpAmerica Foundation in addition to donations of cash, goods and services from individuals, organizations and businesses throughout the community.

NASA Education is a Crystal Lake-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with three major projects: Project Fresh Start, a workforce and community reintegration program for U.S. veterans who are displaced, disabled, homeless, unemployed or otherwise in transition; the Stand Down for Veterans, which takes place in March and October of each year; and the newly acquired apartment buildings in Crystal Lake, which eventually will provide housing for 32 homeless veterans while they participate in Project Fresh Start.

For information about NASA Education and its programs, please phone Kathy Chwedyk at 866-338-4968.

NASA Education welcomes donations of cash, vehicles, appliances, household goods such as furniture, dishes and kitchen equipment, nonperishable food, and new or gently used clothing for the veterans.

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KATHY CHWEDYK
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