To help in the task of assisting servicemembers transition from military to civilian life, the annual Veterans Resource Fair will be held May 13 at the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall.
The event, coordinated by Nine Line Veterans Services, brings several agencies and organizations that assist veterans under one roof from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
"The issue we kept running into with veterans is they get sent to the next place, to the next place and to the next place," said Scot Pondelick, president and CEO of Nine Line Veterans Services. "Then come to find out, they went to the wrong place and so they have to start over."
"Instead of having them travel from Auburn to Tacoma to Seattle to Federal Way to so on and so forth, we wanted it all to be in one location," Pondelick said. "So, you can go to the Vet's Center and sign up for the benefits."
This is the fifth year Pondelick and his staff have put the event on, and there will be more than 100 volunteers and 150 service providers taking part. Last year, 1,647 veterans and family members attended.
Participants can learn more about VA benefits, legal services, homeless services, at-risk homeless services, education school benefits, medical and dental resources, and reintegration services. There will also be job training and apprenticeship agencies, financial education advisers, housing and home ownership, disability claims and alternative therapies. Transition services will aid those just getting out of the military.
You can scratch a lot of itches by going to one place.
"We're just trying to make it easier," Pondelick said.
This is a very unique event, and about 70 percent of those who attend are veterans. The rest are family members of those veterans.
"It is a very military, veteran crowd," Pondelick said. "It's like you're around a bunch of brothers and sisters. It's like a family reunion."
It's both the camaraderie and the need for help that brings this group together. In addition to the resources available, Pondelick will supply a lunch with the help of local food banks. It's all about helping a brother vet in need.
"We get veterans to show up who don't think they need anything, and most of the time they do need something," Pondelick said, "and when they're there, they always find something that they think, ‘Oh, this would be cool to do.'"
All veterans need to do is show up. The event is free, and no registration is required. Businesses or those wanting to make donations can visit nine9line.org.
Pondelick appreciates the sponsors that help pay for the event, including the Pierce County Veterans Bureau, Humana, Sea Mar Community Health Center, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Tacoma Public Utility.