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2002 Homeless StandDown

By Bill Branson

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We made it again! Thanks to Mike Woloshin, Richard Stacewicz, Barry Romo, Janet and Zoe Curry, Dave and Pat Kettenhofen and John Poole for really sweating it out in the kitchen. Ray Parrish also helped out as a counselor. Annie Luginbill was with us in spirit from Jamaica; she left written instructions for her replacement in the storage room. We expect a cage match between her and Betsy next year to see who inherits the title "Storeroom Annie."

Thanks to some dedicated VA workers, various bullshit security restrictions were overcome, so the vets were able to sleep overnight.

The VVA, VietNow and the VFW really turned out again to cook some great meals. The doors next to the kitchen had been sealed shut, so we had very little ventilation. The weather was not too bad, but the fish fry was so blast-furnace hot that the oil almost exploded when the first fish was dropped in. It did not help that the cooks were drunk. New cooks were substituted. It was then that we realized that the armory had no fire extinguishers! We all stank like fish oil for hours.

The homeless guests really dug it, though. People ate seconds and thirds. I'll have to get back to you with a head count, but it looked like a smaller number of vets.

We were all old folks, except for Janet and Zoe. We really need to make an effort to interest some young whippersnappers in sharing the workload. Please leave one or two days off for the November StandDown. It's never too soon to start recruiting!


Bill Branson is a member of VVAW's Chicago chapter and a VVAW national staff member.


Dear Bill (and the gang),

This year at StandDown we registered over 550 veterans and provided services that included medical, dental and optical care, housing and employment referrals, social security and VA disability assistance, health and substance abuse counseling, clothing, haircuts, food, and entertainment. The event ran very smoothly this year and I want to acknowledge that VVAW is a large part of what makes it a success.

We are so fortunate that you have taken responsibility for the kitchen all these years. After ten years, weaker souls might have abandoned ship, but you have remained as reliable and steady as ever. I know that you have to deal with many different personalities and you do that with grace. I know that you have to deal with cramped quarters and lots of mess, but this does not seem to faze you. You have worked to find a solution to the "volunteer eating" dilemma, which I know has remained a problem. But, when you had to face that unbreaded perch this year, I thought there would finally be a revolt! But somehow you all managed to stay in that awful kitchen and fry up fish in 120 degrees. I am making it my mission to find a veterans group that will take over this Friday evening meal, because I feel that too much of this has fallen on you each year. I know that each of the groups that come in to prepare meals appreciate your support and remark on how much easier their job is because of you.

Veterans come to StandDown for many reasons. Some have a specific service that they want to access that day. Some come for the free food and festive atmosphere. Some wander in not sure why they are there and leave with new direction. It is very hard to measure the specific accomplishments of StandDown, but I know that without the dedication, generosity and good humor of VVAW, StandDown would be in trouble.

Warmest regards,

Jeanne A. Douglas Ph.D.
Oak Park Vet Center

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