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Volunteers Help Vets With “Totes of Hope,” “Dress For Success”

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"The 2014 Totes of Hope program will conclude this season with a total of 800 totes"

Red Cross Services to the Armed Forces (SAF) has a rich history of providing support to not only active military personnel and their families, but to veterans, too. This August, several events took place around the Capital Region that continued that proud tradition, and Red Cross volunteers worked hard to ensure their success.

One such event was the annual Tri-County “Stand-Down,” a multi-faceted outreach program that seeks to provide goods and services to homeless veterans. At a Stand-Down, vets have access to essentials like food and shelter, in addition to critical resources like VA and Social Security benefits counseling, and referrals to substance abuse treatment centers. The name Stand-Down is derived from the military term, which refers to a period of downtime designed to give soldiers a brief respite from the rigors of the battlefield. Like its namesake, the “Stand-Down” that took place here in the Capital Region on August 23 aimed to provide a similar respite from the hardships that many veterans unfortunately face in their day-to-day lives as civilians, including joblessness, physical and mental ailments, and all too often, homelessness.

Red Cross volunteers participated in this year’s Stand-Down by collecting donated hygiene and personal care items and packing them into tote bags to be distributed to veterans in need as part of a program called “Totes of Hope.” The program proved to be extremely successful this year, with volunteers distributing 400 totes at this event alone. Each bag was filled with items like shampoo, soap, razors, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, mouthwash, and body wash. After packing the totes at a Red Cross warehouse, volunteers delivered them to the Stand-Down, where they were distributed—by both Red Cross volunteers and those from partner organizations—to each veteran in attendance. Dianna Rios, Red Cross Services to Armed Forces Manager, commented on the success of the program: “The 2014 Totes of Hope program will conclude this season with a total of 800 totes filled and distributed to veterans throughout our area. We couldn’t have achieved these impressive results without the continued support of our community’s generous donations of hygiene products.”

Over Labor Day weekend, Red Cross volunteers were again busy helping veterans in need. In partnership with the Veterans Miracle Center, SAF supported “Dress for Success,” providing vets in need of business attire with free suits. Given a generous donation of brand new Marc Jacobs suits, specifically earmarked to help veterans, Red Cross volunteers fitted 86 veterans and then began the time-consuming task of pulling needed sizes, packing the suits for transport, and delivering them to each deserving recipient. Each of these veterans also received hygiene products collected during the 2014 Totes of Hope campaign.

Photos from these events can be viewed on Facebook.  For more information about Red Cross SAF programs, contact Dianna Rios, SAF Manager, at (518) 694-5160 or email dianna.rios@redcross.org.