Thomas Parks came looking for camaraderie and got a free haircut. Glen Baumert came looking for warm socks and got to showoff his 2½-year-old Great Dane, Sweetheart.
Parks and Baumert were expected to be joined by 120 to 130 other veterans on Thursday at the Exhibit Hall at the La Plata County Fairgrounds for the fifth annual Four Corners Veterans Stand Down.
Richard Schleeter, Veterans Service officer for La Plata County, said the idea is simple: Offer veterans living in the region whatever services and items they need for free one day a year at a central location.
“We especially try and help homeless and at-risk veterans, low-income veterans,” Schleeter said. “Pretty much any help we can provide, we try to have it in place for them.”
Parks, who served in the Navy from 1969 to 1973, serving mainly in California, said he had scored some goodies, including a free haircut, but mainly he enjoyed getting out of the house and socializing.
“Since I stopped driving, I don’t get out very much,” he said.
Brendan Vlass, who operates a barber shop at 1849 Main Ave., said he expected to give 20 haircuts at the Stand Down, which ran from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
“I came to help out and have a good day. I heard no one had signed up, so it was a good opportunity to help out. The hardest thing was getting my chair out here, and they helped me with that,” he said.
Baumert was popular, cruising vendor tables with Sweetheart on a leash.
“I really appreciate everything they are doing for vets,” he said on his quest to find warm socks.
Along the way, he answered questions about Sweetheart. Baumert works with Rose Danes, a local breeder of the big dogs.
Luke Clancy, a bear educator with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, operated a table providing information about living with wildlife, especially bears and mountain lions, to vets who might be living in tents.
“We provide information about deer, too,” Clancy said, “protecting the fawns in the spring.”
Clancy noted CPW provides free entry to veterans to all state parks during August every year.
Butch Crim with the Veterans Outreach Center and Durango’s chapter of Disabled American Veterans said the two organizations collect clothing all year to give to veterans. Items in high demand, he said, include coats, wool socks, wool hats and gloves.
Anyone interested in donating clothing or other items or services to veterans can call the Veterans Outreach Center at 426-4499.
Schleeter said housing, food and gasoline are the most needed items among homeless and low-income veterans.
Anyone who can help donate services or items for veterans can call Schleeter at 759-0117.