Friday evening, the Porter County Expo was filled with grateful chatter, thankful volunteers, and appreciative veterans.
VNA of Northwest Indiana held its first VNA Hospice Porter County Stand Down with a number one goal to show support for the various troops who served in the United States military Region-wide.
Being one of the first stand downs in the area, VNA Hospice Community Liaison Amy Wulf was ready to bring the event to life.
“There is a long history of stand downs, but Northwest Indiana Military Support Network, which VNA Hospice is a member of, identified [the] need for a stand down in Porter County,” Wulf said.
VNA Hospice took the event under their wing in February 2022 with help from the Northwest Indiana Military Support Network, as well as numerous sponsors and volunteers, to make this year’s debut stand down possible.
Erica Kerkes, VNA Hospice Volunteer Services Coordinator, said that her team had attended other stand downs before since VNA Hospice is a Level 5 provider, the highest level of provider ship, with the We Honor Veterans program.
“Historically, the term ‘stand down’ comes from the Vietnam era,” Kerkes said. “It was a time for the service members to take a break from the war…to take care of any personal needs [like] eating, taking a shower, or taking a nap.”
Now transformed, the stand down event was held inside the Expo Center, where 61 booths were made accessible for veterans looking for local resources to thank them for their service and accommodate them and their families post-service.
Senior living options, insurance programs, and other lifestyle assistance were in show. Haircuts, massages, first aid kits, gift bags, and much more were given to veterans in attendance.
Along with booths, veterans and families were served a sloppy joe dinner provided by American Legion Auxiliary Unit 260. Refreshments were served by a local coffee shop.
Bob Franko, President and CEO of VNA Hospice, was more than happy to prepare a community-wide stand down for veterans and volunteers.
“We jumped at the opportunity to be able to host the stand down,” Franko said. “We were just really, frankly, overwhelmed by the response from all the different vendors and folks that [are] here.”
Franko discussed the “public narrative” of mistreatment of American veterans online and in social media and said that he does not believe that is true, but he does think more can be done to celebrate them.
“We can’t do enough for our veterans, so anytime that we can get them together and just express our gratitude and thanks to them for the service they provided to all of us, but to also make sure they are aware of all of the resources that are available to them.”
VNA Hospice strives to make this stand down an annual event.
“We are really honored and privileged to be able to host this,” Franko said.
Sponsors for this year’s stand down included Porter County Community Foundation, George & Judith Urban Fund for Veterans, Family Express, Strack & Van Til, Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs, United Steelworkers Local 6787, Roofers Local 26, Carpenters Local 1485, and American Legion Auxiliary Unit 260.
VNA of Northwest Indiana serves senior patients from all counties across the Region, including Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Jasper, and Starke Counties.
To learn more about the services VNA Hospice provides, visit its website here.