The 2019 Capital Region Stand Down held last month was a special opportunity for numerous nonprofit, government and community organizations to come together in service to local veterans. The event — designed to provide a wide array of assistance to those experiencing or at risk of homelessness — saw more than 150 veterans come through the door at the Schenectady Armory on Saturday, October 5. Hundreds of hours of cooperative work among partners — including the American Red Cross, the Eastern New York Homeless Veterans Coalition Committee, SEFCU, Stratton VA Medical Center, the Civil Air Patrol, National Guard, St. Peter’s Health Partners, New York State, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and other community groups — led to a very successful day of service benefiting our area’s veterans.

When the doors to the Armory opened at 7 A.M., volunteers quickly felt the attraction of the Stand Down and saw how important it would be to the local veteran community. More than 40 exhibitors were on hand to provide critical services from health screenings to food incentives to winter clothing and even legal assistance.

“The biggest thing was to prepare [the veterans] for the winter,” explained Ellen Hillander, a Red Cross volunteer with the Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program in Northeastern New York. “They got their physical assessment, they had flu shots, they had agencies that would help with placing them in apartments to help the homeless…all meeting needs for the winter.”

The Red Cross was on hand to give out warm winter coats and hats, generously donated by SEFCU. Volunteers also opened cases for each veteran they served, allowing the Red Cross to continue to provide follow up services beyond the one-day event. “I’ve actually heard stories from people who have gone through [the Stand Down] in the past who have success stories…who got housing, who got jobs, who were connected to agencies through this event,” Hillander shared. “The Red Cross is going to follow up with all of these veterans…making phone calls and visits to make sure that the needs they had here were met. And if they were not met, the Red Cross is going to help them with that, also.”

Red Cross volunteers distributed 123 coats throughout the course of the 2019 Stand Down. Thanks to other agencies, veterans also received items like shoes, blankets, and sleeping bags, in addition to assistance with employment, housing, healthcare and more. Following the event, a total of 140 new cases were opened for Red Cross follow up, highlighting the commitment our local SAF team has for ensuring that veterans receive the highest standard of care possible.

Planning has already begun for the 2020 Stand Down. To learn more about Red Cross SAF services or how you can help support local veterans and military families as an SAF volunteer, please contact Regional Program Director Sam Lute or visit

Written by Gabriel Suprise, Red Cross Content Creation Team Member.
Photos by Conrad Novick.