ll day tomorrow, Thursday, Oct. 10, Stramler Park, located at 3805 Chester Ave., in Bakersfield, will be bustling with activity as close to 110 registered service providers offer FREE assistance to some 500 veterans and their dependents, with an emphasis on serving those who are homeless or at-risk, at the annual resource fair known as the Kern County Veterans Stand Down.

The park gates will open at 7:30 a.m. for attendees, and the day will begin with the Stand Down’s traditional patriotic opening ceremony at the park’s stage at 8 a.m., featuring the presenting of colors, the singing of our National Anthem, greetings from dignitaries, and the acknowledgment of sponsors and volunteers without whom this great effort to serve local veterans would not be possible.

All veterans in the park will be able to access a wide range of goods and services at no cost, such as linkage to housing; a free breakfast, lunch, groceries and pet food; clothing, shoes and backpacks; grooming services including showers, haircuts and hygiene kits;  medical services; veterans benefits; bicycles; and the opportunity to appear before a judge at Veterans Court by appointment in the afternoon.

“Veterans Court allows veterans an opportunity to get their fines dismissed for community service and, if ordered, to receive mental health assessments, counseling and/or treatment,” said Stand Down organizing agency California Veterans Assistance Foundation President & CEO Deb Johnson. She said many veterans, especially those who are homeless or at risk, would never be able to pay accumulated traffic and misdemeanor fines which sometimes can amount to thousands of dollars. This impacts their ability to obtain or maintain employment, credit, a drivers’ license and housing, she said. Veterans Court, therefore, has been an integral part of the local Stand Down effort for years, and is a useful resource for helping to reduce homelessness among veterans.

Local Media Partners are invited to come to Stramler Park even before the gates open to feature preparations in morning news broadcasts.

For interviews, please contact Kern County Veterans Stand Down Organizing Committee Co-Chairs:

  • Deb Johnson, President & CEO of California Veterans Assistance Foundation, at deb.johnson@cavaf.org, or 661-873-4600; or
  • Heather Kimmel, Assistant Executive Director of the Housing Authority of the County of Kern, at HKimmel@kernha.org, or 661-631-8500 extension 2505.

(SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING ENGAGING VETERANS FOR INTERVIEWS: Please be mindful that a number of our veterans suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and could be nervous about appearing on camera or being approached by members of the media. Kindly use respect and ask first to determine whether a veteran attending the Stand Down will be willing to grant you an interview or a photo op. If in doubt about whom to ask, feel free to approach any of our Veterans Stand Down volunteers, who will be easily identifiable by the red or blue “U.S. Flag” polo shirts they will be wearing. Thank you.)

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