Staff Report

A record number of 131 services were provided to the 479 veterans who attended the eighth annual Santa Barbara County Veterans Stand Down on Oct. 19 at the Santa Maria Fairpark.

More than 625 volunteers helped at the day-long gathering.

This year, of the 479 registered veterans, 144 listed themselves as homeless. There were 38 female veterans, including eight classifying as homeless. In Stand Down’s first year in 2012, 229 veterans attended.

This year, the ages of veterans ranged from the 21-30 group to three veterans ages 91-96. The bulk of the veterans were between the ages of 51 and 70.

This year included an effort known as the Stand Down Homeless Assistance Project, run by the Stand Down organizers, 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino and coordinator Sandy Agalos.

“We are case-working with homeless veterans during the year, so we don’t see them here next year as homeless,” Lavagnino said.

The record 131 services included new providers this year, such as Cal Poly Low-income Tax Clinic, California Rural Legal Assistance, Disabled Veterans National Federation, Lompoc Pride Alliance, Mission Hope Center, SMAT, Cosmoton Barber Academy, SLO Veterans Service Collaborative, Rotaract and more.

Among the services available to veterans during Stand Down were medical and dental care, showers, clothing, hygiene products, legal aid, housing services, pet care and grooming, food, transportation from the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, Habitat for Humanity, haircuts, college guidance, child support case guidance, behavioral wellness, probation department warrant checks and more.

Among the 627 volunteers were 150 active duty men and women from Vandenberg Air Force and 12 Vandenberg civilian employees. The military members helped stage the event, monitored the veteran gate, served as one-on-one escorts, restocked and sorted items in the convention center and served food, among other duties.

During the recent Stand Down Committee appreciation luncheon, Lavagnino recognized Lompoc resident Ken Ostini as Volunteer of the Year and Walgreens and Rebecca Petersen as Stand Down Organization of the Year.

This year, the supervisor also recognized two people as Stand Down County Employees of the Year: Senior Office Assistant Carolina Carrillo and Animal Services Department Community Outreach Coordinator Stacy Silva.

Ostini, an Army veteran, has worked with Stand Down on the transportation and budget committees.

“Ken suggested that the event be called the Santa Barbara County Stand Down to expand the event beyond Santa Maria, to serve the entire county of Santa Barbara,” Lavagnino said. “Each year, Ken organizes collection drives, puts up banners and promotes Stand Down in Lompoc. Ken even rides the bus with the veterans on the day of Stand Down. Ken modestly gives credit to others. Thank you, Ken, for being an inspiration to us all.”

Walgreens and employee Rebecca Petersen were named Stand Down Organization of the Year. This year alone, Walgreens administered 88 flu shots during Stand Down.

“We are a military family,” Petersen said. “There isn’t a year that goes by that I am still not met with a situation or a moment that brings tears to my eyes. We are also guaranteed to have many laughs throughout the day from the amazing men and women who have served.”

For the first time, county employees were honored as well. Carolina Carrillo was named County Employee of the Year for Stand Down. Carrillo is an Office Assistant Senior in the county’s Department of Social Services. She is a military spouse as well.

“Carolina has single-handedly streamlined our volunteer and service provider registration to go paperless,” Lavagnino said. “She worked behind the scenes to make sure our registration ran smoothly. This year during Stand Down, Carolina even worked at three locations.”

Animal Services Department Community Outreach Coordinator Stacy Silva was also named County Employee of the Year for Stand Down. Silva ran the event’s Pet Zone, which had 40 volunteers this year. There was also an Animal Services vehicle to carry animals for vets traveling from Santa Barbara to Santa Maria that day. This year, 41 pets went through the area, with 28 dogs groomed and 71 veterans given dog and cat food.

“Stacy poured her heart and soul into making Pet Zone great,” Lavagnino said. He added that “It has been demanding but she has given back in ways that cannot be measured.”

Veterans took advantage of the Stand Down services, including 101 who got haircuts and 30 who went through Dignity Health assessments. There were 60 vision screenings, and 394 bus tokens were given to assist with follow-up appointments.

One hundred veterans signed up for Santa Maria Public Library cards. The American Red Cross gave out 1,500 bottles of water, 150 rolls of toilet paper, 600 trash bags and 150 tooth brushes. Thirty veterans received follow-up appointments for United Way Home for Good and 24 were served by New Beginnings Counseling Center.

Raytheon, RG Next and InDyne Inc. spoke with more than 100 veterans about jobs and 26 met with the Probation Department. Forty-two veterans made contact with Santa Barbara County Legal Aid. The Santa Barbara Public Defenders Office helped veterans with outstanding traffic warrants and other legal matters. One vet even had an out-of-state criminal case handled and dismissed, while five veterans were able to get traffic warrants heard and dismissed.

Stand Down 2020 will take place Oct. 17 at the Santa Maria Fairpark.

For more information, see For images from the 2019 event and past years, see Santa Barbara County Veterans Stand Down on Facebook.