Veterans Resource Fair serves those who served

Photo by Brett Dunlap Jackie Spector of the USO speaks to local veterans John Danielski and Jack Bell Thursday during the second annual Veterans Resource Fair at the Parkersburg National Guard Armory on Blizzard Drive.

PARKERSBURG — Local veterans were able to come to one spot to ask about services they might need.

The second annual Veterans Resource Fair was held Thursday at the Parkersburg National Guard Armory on Blizzard Drive.

Over 400 veterans attended last year and organizers were hoping for over 500 this year, said Larry Smith, vice president of We Have Your 6, a local veterans assistance group working to build a shelter and help homeless veterans.

“I refer to this as a one-stop shop for veterans,” he said of the fair. “If you have any kind of questions about veteran benefits, someone here can answer it for you.

“Whatever you need, it is here. We will help lead them in the right direction.”

Photo by Brett Dunlap Dan Chandler of Winfield and William Combs of Point Pleasant man the American Legion table at the Veterans Resource Fair Thursday at the Parkersburg National Guard Armory.

The fair has been planned for over the last six months, said Amy Long of West Virginia National Guard Family Programs.

It included vendors specializing in veterans services, including Veteran Benefit Administration and local community resources. The West Virginia Gold Star Mothers had a booth, banking institutions were present to talk about VA Home Loan programs and veteran service organizations were present that help with employment and writing resumes and job applications.

“There are a lot of veterans who just don’t know who to turn to,” Smith said. “They can come here and ask questions.”

Both are part of the Joining Community Forces, a group tasked with taking care of local veterans.

Long said West Virginia Health Right did free dental X-rays, exams and cleanings for veterans, Cedar Grove Assisted Living provided 400 spaghetti dinners for the veterans who attended the fair, Broadway Barbershop provided free haircuts to veterans and Zenergy Massages gave free chair massages to local veterans.

Photo by Brett Dunlap Organizers hoped for over 500 people to attend the Veterans Resource Fair at the Parkersburg National Guard Armory on Thursday.

Health care is a major issue for many veterans as some do not qualify for VA benefits.

“There are several organizations that provide those benefits for our veterans that may not qualify in other ways,” Long said. “There are a lot of groups here many veterans and people who work with veterans don’t know about.

“I have many people calling me daily looking for these benefits. Sometimes they are frustrated with the system. Bringing these resources here face to face for our veterans that is where the need is.”

Long said many veterans don’t like to have to go and ask for help. They can come to the resource fair and talk with people privately about what they are looking for and how they might get help.

“Veterans here don’t know where to go for help,” Long said.

Smith said that is why they saw such a large turnout on Thursday.

“There are 225,000 veterans in West Virginia (with a large number of homeless veterans),” he said. “We want to help them.”

Smith hopes veterans who came to the fair got a chance to experience fellowship with their fellow veterans.

“They are meeting a lot of people and seeing there are a lot of people out there just like them who are searching for answers,” he said.

Navy veteran Jack Bell of Parkersburg said the event shows that people still respect veterans.

“It is good,” he said. “It shows they are cared about.”

Marine veteran John Danielski of Parkersburg said he was impressed by what was available at the event.

“There are a lot of benefits here that veterans don’t know about,” he said. “This is a good place to find out about them.”

People were working to help veterans with benefit claims as well as groups doing health screens.