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Volunteers to help homeless vets

December 10, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- A contingent of volunteers and staff at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Berkeley County on Saturday will "serve the veterans who served us" at an outreach event for homeless veterans in the four-state area.

"We're hoping for a good turnout," said Michelle R. Cooke, chief of the medical center's domiciliary residential rehabilitation treatment program.

From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., the first "HeroHaven Homeless Veterans Stand Down" at the medical center will offer homeless veterans an opportunity to receive health and mental health screenings, housing services, employment support and other information for free. Clothing and comfort items will be given out, and lunch will be served, officials said.

Organizers have arranged for shuttle bus transportation to the medical center from locations in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, which are in the medical center's 23-county patient service area.

Veterans should be at Salvation Army locations in Winchester and Harrisonburg, Va., at 8 a.m.

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Veterans may receive transportation from the Bethany House in Martinsburg, Martinsburg Vet Center, Martinsburg and Frederick (Md.) Union Rescue Mission, Four States Christian Mission in Hagerstown, The Salvation Army in Chambersburg, Pa., and the Maranatha Cold Weather Shelter in Chambersburg, beginning at 9 a.m.

"Everything has been donated through our veterans service organizations," Cooke said of the community support and planning efforts that began in September.

"We're very appreciative of that."

Even if a veteran does not have paperwork (DD-214 form) to verify their military service, Cooke said organizers are prepared to make a determination during the event. Individuals need only come to the hospital's front lobby to receive assistance.

Cooke said officials have planned to receive 50 to 150 veterans for the one-day event.

"I have a feeling this is going to be the first of many to come," Cooke said.

"Many veterans don't have a place to call home," Veterans Affairs Medical Center spokeswoman Maria Tamez said in a news release.

"Many struggle mentally and physically after service to our country, and most are too proud to ask for help," she said in the release.

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