Sarasota volunteers step up to help area veterans

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SARASOTA, FLA. - The 3rd Annual Veterans Stand Down was held Saturday morning at the Sarasota County Health Department and at Payne Park.

“It is a great opportunity to connect veterans in our community, especially the homeless veterans with services they may need,” said Chuck Henry, Director of Sarasota County Health and Human Services.

More than two dozens organizations participated in the event.

“The VA, through the Department of Defense, provides surplus items for veterans,” explained Phillip Gorelick with Jewish Family and Children's Service. He said the veterans were given nonperishable food, clothing and personal care items. “We don’t provide sleeping bags, we don’t provide tents, we don't provide tarps. We provide things that you or I might have.”

The veterans were also provided with a face to face opportunity to receive help.

“A lot of veterans do have a hard time getting help and that's the sad part, there is a lot of help available, they just need to be put in contact with the people that can provide the help,” said volunteer Paul Sutton.

When Tony Besheer needed help, he didn't know where to turn.

“Most people are scared like me. I was scared to ask for help,” said Besheer. He served ten years in the Army but said before he knew it his life started to spiral out of control.

“I was pretty much homeless, living in my car on the streets and I didn’t have any family help so when I went to the VA it was a tremendous help.”

During the Stand Down veterans were also provided free hair cuts and manicures by the Manatee Technical Institute. Besheer said days like this give veterans a boost of moral.

“Events like these make us feel like we are really needed and appreciated verses just being out there in the cold.”