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Charles Liston, left, a volunteer, helped find a pair of boots for Vincent Figous, a veteran at today's Stand Down event at the Memorial Hall, Kansas City, Kan. (Staff photo)
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Aiyuanna Williams, a freshman at Washington High School, volunteered today at the Heart of America Stand Down at Memorial Hall, Kansas City, Kan. She is a member of the Junior ROTC. (Staff photo)
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Many booths were available to help veterans at today's Heart of America Stand Down at Memorial Hall, Kansas City, Kan. (Staff photo)
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Volunteers and veterans enjoyed lunch today at the Heart of America Stand Down at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kan. Volunteers at this table included Mike Appelhans, left front, Kendra Kenney, left back, and Amber Kenney, right. They were volunteers with Grantham University. (Staff photo)
About 400 volunteers helped veterans today in the Heart of America Stand Down at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kan.
More than 500 veterans participated in the event, said Art Fillmore, one of the event’s founders. The program is for homeless and at-risk veterans.
“A high percentage are on the streets,” he said. Possibly 60 to 70 percent are homeless, sleeping in cars or staying in shelters, he added.
It’s the 21st year for the annual event. From 50 to 60 social services have booths at the event helping with social services, getting a job, haircuts, and more, he said. Veterans attending the event received a hot meal, clothing, boots, socks, jackets and other gear they may need to survive in the cold weather, he said.
About 10 percent, or 30 veterans, are women, he added.
“We measure progress by the people who come back as volunteers who were homeless,” he said.
Today, for example, one veteran polished and brought back boots that he had received four years ago in the Stand Down, Fillmore said. The veteran had moved on to a job and wanted to help other homeless veterans.
Fillmore said that they are seeing younger veterans now, including veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns. In the last few years, more veterans have been on the streets because of economic reasons, he added.
Angel Dennis was one of many volunteers staffing a volunteer check-in today. She is with Grantham University.
She volunteered “because I feel like it’s an obligation to give back, because I have so much,” she said.
Charles Liston, a volunteer who lives in the Turner area of Kansas City, Kan., said he was volunteering for a class project from Kansas City Kansas Community College. He said he currently does a lot of volunteer work.
“I wished I had learned a lot younger to give back to my community,” he said.
Another volunteer was Aiyuanna Williams, a freshman at Washington High School, where she is in the Junior ROTC.
“I decided to volunteer because I knew a lot of these veterans have helped our country,” Williams said. “It’s only right to help them because they helped us.”