The Board of Directors of the Santa Ynez Valley Opportunity Shop has presented a $10,000 donation to the eighth annual Santa Barbara County Veterans Stand Down, which will take place on Saturday, Oct. 19, at the Santa Maria Fairpark.
Opportunity Shop Founding President Karen Jones, current President Art Kaslow, Treasurer Terri Kaslow and Operations Director Katy Atkinson delivered an oversized $10,000 check to Santa Barbara County 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, whose office coordinates the Stand Down.
“Stand Down is successful because of our committed volunteers and our generous donors,” Lavagnino said. “The Santa Ynez Valley Opportunity Shop really stepped up for our veterans and will undoubtedly make the lives of many veterans much better. The Opportunity Shop’s generosity will allow us to continue to meet the needs of the most vulnerable veterans in our community.”
In 2018, 530 veterans were helped during the one-day Stand Down, including 171 homeless veterans and 56 female veterans. Almost 650 volunteers worked during the event, and 121 services were offered, including clothing, haircuts, behavioral wellness counseling, legal aid, dental and medical screenings, housing assistance, employment aid, pet care, social services and more.
The Opportunity Shop started during World War II in Buellton as a “canteen” for soldiers. When it reincorporated in 2010, its mission statement was created to include help for veterans and other worthy causes, Jones said. The shop also annually gives thousands of dollars in scholarships to local high school students.
“We give people an opportunity, and Stand Down is making opportunities for veterans,” Jones said. “There is plenty of help for veterans, and Stand Down gets people connected with that help. It’s all in one place — it’s a one-stop shop. It’s a way we can connect.”
Dr. Kaslow, a dentist, calls the Opportunity Shop’s gift an “impact” donation. He knows first-hand some of the needs of veterans – he is a retired colonel with the U.S. Army Medical Reserves, with multiple deployments, including Iraq and Afghanistan. He served active duty from 1983 to 1988.
“We donate tens of thousands of dollars to nonprofits,” Dr. Kaslow said. “We felt that as a percent of our budget, we needed to direct our efforts to veterans. There are lots of needy organizations, but this takes care of over 500 people at once. There’s no better way we can touch the lives of 500 people than by giving this donation.”
At the Stand Down, veterans can learn about opportunities and programs such as veterans treatment court, California ID Cards, housing, employment and training, mental health, legal assistance, and social services.
Applications for veterans who want to attend the Stand Down are available at the Santa Barbara County Veterans Stand Down website, www.sbcountystanddown.com, or by calling Lavagnino’s office at 805-346-8402.
Applications can be emailed, mailed or faxed upon request. There is no charge to veterans and their families who attend Stand Down.
For more information, see sbcountystanddown.com or Santa Barbara County Veterans Stand Down on Facebook.