Santa Barbara County Veterans Stand Down is an annual event that welcomes military veterans in need from all over the Central Coast to the county fairgrounds in Santa Maria one day a year to receive health and social services, hygiene items, clothing donations, job assistance, mental health, pet veterinary services, food and more.
The COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing guidelines caused organizers to cancel this year’s event. That’s understandable. Stand Down has grown to attract more than 1,000 veterans and volunteers to the fairgrounds with many bused in from around the county. After eight years of helping veterans in need, Stand Down was called off with plans to return in 2021.
Then something unexpected happened. Someone suggested the idea of making Stand Down a drive-through event. At the 11th hour, organizers decided to run with it. Donors responded immediately, and items began to pour in.
So, Stand Down’s grab-and-go event was born. Fittingly held on Veteran’s Day, vets drove through the parking lot at the Joseph Centeno Government Administration Building on Lakeside Parkway in Santa Maria to receive to-go bags filled with hygiene items, socks, sunscreen, sunglasses a first aid kit and more.
CoastHills volunteer board director and Marine Corps veteran Hugh Rafferty partnered with the Credit Union to direct $5,000 to the event.
“Our military veterans are in great need, especially during this time when jobs are few and needs are not easily met,” Rafferty said. “Thankfully, CoastHills Credit Union has empowered its board members to help direct donations to worthy local charities. I could think of nothing more important than Santa Barbara County Veterans Stand Down.
“This program — primarily directed at homeless veterans — provides clothing, medical exams, personal grooming items, pet care and social services for these men and women. As a Marine Corps veteran, I want to send a special thanks to Santa Barbara County 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino and Veterans Stand Down Coordinator, Sandy Agalos, for creating and maintaining this much-needed program.”
Founded in 1958 to primarily serve military and civilian personnel at Vandenberg Air Force Base, CoastHills has grown to serve the entire Central Coast community with more than 70,000 members throughout the Central Coast and assets more than $1.3 billion.
Even so, the Credit Union continues to cherish its military heritage through its support of causes like Stand Down. In 2019, CoastHills donated 100 sweatshirts to the event, and the previous year, the Credit Union contributed 60 pairs of sweatshirts and sweatpants to go with 60 reusable tote bags.
“Thank you to CoastHills,” Rafferty said, “for maintaining its military roots.”
*Image description: CoastHills CEO Paul Cook, left, and Credit Union volunteer director Hugh Rafferty present Santa Barbara County 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino and Santa Barbara County Veterans Stand Down with a donation for $5,000 to support this month's grab-and-go event for local veterans in need.