Advocates confirm preliminary count of 20 dead from Eugene weather conditions
Love for Lane County and its staff supported the recent Stand Down event for veterans. Executive Director Sarah Koski.
[00:00:07] Sarah Koski: The term ‘Stand Down’ itself was something that I had to look up and, it’s a war term, meaning when ‘Stand Down’ was called, those on the front lines left the front lines and went to the back and had some time to recoup and to recover. So the premise of this is, a safe place for veterans to recoup and recover, share some stories.
[00:00:29] And it just, it was really exciting, but what really stirred my heart during this time was knowing how many different veteran associations are in the city. And being able to volunteer to Stand Down, you learn more history, you learn some of these amazing American customs, and it’s opened up my heart to see how we can do more because honestly, there has to be more done to love on our troops and love on our veterans in this community.
[00:00:58] John Q: Joni Garrelts and her husband are with the Springfield VFW. She’s been volunteering with Stand Down for the last eight years.
[00:01:06] Joni Garrelts: My name is Joni Garrelts. My husband and I are both veterans and members of the Springfield Veterans of Foreign Wars post. For the post I serve as the Adjutant and also as the Chaplain.
[00:01:20] Stand Down was started by three Vietnam vets in San Diego, California in 1988. Stand Down has grown over the years, from starting off in a little space over at the Armory in Springfield to the Keefer Sports Center on South 32nd street to the Wheeler pavilion, then over to the Lane Events Center.
[00:01:45] And what Stand Down is, it’s a hand up, not a handout. And it is open to all veterans and those who are currently serving in the reserve or active duty and their families, but the primary focus is on helping homeless vets. There’s so many different services that are available to veterans.
[00:02:08] Just last weekend, the mini Stand Down was held at the Elks Lodge on West 11th in Eugene. And that one, we offered blankets, jackets, clothing, shoes, outdoor gear from Paid To Raid and Love for Lane County and we had veteran thank you bags and Bibles that were donated. The Department of Defense have sleeping bags, backpacks, boots, jackets, anything to help them out, to stay warm and try to stay alive, especially during the winter months, because it got cold last night.
[00:02:48] John Q: As a veteran with service in Turkey, Joni appreciates that the Stand Down also serves women veterans.
[00:02:55] Joni Garrelts: There was a separate room for women veterans, and it had items geared towards female vets and female clothing, personal care items, everything a female vet could use.
[00:03:10] There are others set up with clothing. My church, we got together a whole bunch of donations and we would hand out towels, sheets, blankets. We got a bunch of snacks from local stores and tea from a very generous local tea company. Yogi Tea. They’ve always been very generous, helping out.
[00:03:38] John Q: In addition to her Stand Down volunteering, Joni is building a thick binder of veteran resources in Lane County.
[00:03:45] Joni Garrelts: Being a female veteran, especially one of faith, I know that there is a great need for resources for female vets and their families. And thankfully the VA has expanded on what services it offers to them. Now there is maternity care and just so much more that’s offered and available for female vets. And I want to make sure any female vet in need knows about it. And I keep working on that.
[00:04:12] John Q: Supporting these efforts, Joni met an American hero.
[00:04:16] Joni Garrelts: She was participating in Stand Down, not as a veteran. She would crochet and knit hats and scarves, and they would be in the women’s area. And during one of our barbecues in Springfield at the Springfield VFW, she came through and I recognized her and I was happy to get my picture taken with her, because, here is this real life, I was able to meet and talk with an actual Rosie the Riveter.
[00:04:43] John Q: Love for Lane County also continues its campaign, “No More Lost Limbs,” to prevent amputations among the unhoused.
[00:04:52] Sarah Koski: This winter, especially with the potential chilling temperatures, we want to get as many gloves on fingers, as many good socks and weatherproof boots on toes so we don’t see amputations and loss of limbs. And Love For Lane County is making a extreme, concerted effort. If we as Christians say ‘the sanctity of life,’ that also means the sanctity of homeless lives.
[00:05:18] I was just on a call the other day when I heard that they had 20 documented deaths based on weather conditions already in Eugene. And those are the ones that they know of, so we know that those numbers are significantly low. And so we as a Christian community, of Christian faith, must take a stronger step in supporting our brothers and sisters on the street.