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Port Arthur event provides services for veterans, people of all needs

The Robert A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center will transform into a different type of hub May 14 when approximately 60 vendors and non-profits join to help serve area veterans, people struggling with homelessness and the community at large.

Southeast Texas Stand Down is an annual program that generally takes place in January, but was pushed this year to May due to COVID concerns.

Each year an event is hosted in Beaumont, Orange and Port Arthur; but the Port Arthur one is the largest, said Chester Jourdan, executive director for the Southeast and Deep East Texas Chapter of the American Red Cross.

“Any of the services that a veteran or their family or the community at large would need, we’re trying to bring them together in one place at one time,” Jourdan said. “What we try to do with these events is bring the services to the veteran instead of the veteran to the services.”

Fonter Sackor from the Southeast Texas Food Bank handed out several boxes of fruit to veterans at the Bob Bower’s Civic Center during the 2020 event. (Cassandra Jenkins/The News file photo)

While veterans are one of the groups targeted by the event, there will also be resources for anyone with a need for assistance.

“One of our focuses has been the homeless, but it can also be someone near-homeless, someone between locations or someone in an apartment with a short lease,” Jourdan said.

Some of the services available at the event will be assistance with clothing, shelter/housing information, medical screenings, mental health screenings, information for the disabled, VA claims and benefit information, help with DD214 (documentation to provide proof of military service), services for women veterans, substance abuse treatment information, HIV/AIDS information, SNAP (food stamps) information, survival benefits and sack lunches.

“We normally bring out food boxes, water and possibly produce that we have available to give,” said Jimmy Sparks, director of development at the Southeast Texas Food Bank. “It is well-received and well-needed. COVID has had an effect on everyone.”

Sparks said the need for assistance from the food bank has increased about 50 percent since the pandemic began. But donations have also remained stable, allowing the non-profit to serve those in need.

“We’ve been blessed,” Sparks said.

For the Southeast Texas Stand Down event, Garland Flakes with Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Port Arthur and Port Arthur Transit Authority Operations Supervisor Brad Coleman have coordinated to provide free pickup from the church located at 501 West Thomas Blvd.

And the transit authority will be providing free rides to anyone wanting to attend the event, Jourdan said.

Last year, approximately 400 people attended.

“The vendors are excited about doing this and providing this event,” Jourdan said. “They need them more now than ever before.”

Southeast Texas Stand Down will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mask and social distancing will be required.