Vets resource fair schedule has changed
Despite recent reports and rumors to the contrary, no Veterans Resources Fair will be held this month in Prineville.
But that doesn't mean an event for local veterans to connect with services won't take place this year. It will just happen a couple months later and join another popular event that draws veterans and their family members.
The resource fair will join the Veterans Appreciation Dinner, an event launched last fall during the week after Thanksgiving, that is intended to thank veterans and their families and show appreciation for their sacrifices and service.
The decision to combine the two events came after a poor showing at the 2017 resources fair, held during Mother's Day weekend in May. Shannon Dearth, director of Crook County's Veteran Services Department, said many other events took place at the same time and cold weather further discouraged attendance at the outdoor event.
"Sadly, the turnout was pretty minimal," he remarked.
When the 2017 fair concluded, the Veteran Services Department booked the same outdoor tent at Crook County Fairgrounds with a tentative plan to host the event again this coming Sept. 15. However, those plans later changed after Dearth talked with Crook County commissioners, who served food at the appreciation dinner, about taking a different approach.
"We realized we had bigger success of veterans and families showing up at the Appreciation Dinner," he said, noting that around 200 people came to Carey Foster Hall to enjoy the event. "We were kind of kicking over having those resources (from the fair) available during that time."
It wasn't until Dearth recently tried to book Carey Foster Hall for the combined dinner and resource fair that he learned the tent at the fairgrounds was still reserved for a Sept. 15 resources fair. He also found out that because of that lingering reservation, the event still appeared on the fairgrounds calendar.
"I didn't know the word was out there," Dearth said, before going on to stress that the time for the event had indeed changed.
Dearth is hoping that combining the resource fair with the appreciation dinner will not only draw a larger crowd of veterans, but make their family members aware of what service are available. He points out that the resource fair did not typically attract families the way the appreciation dinner has, so holding both events together will expose them to services they might not otherwise encounter.
Those services, Dearth explained, extend beyond what the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers. He said local veterans deal often with VA services like compensation, benefits and health care, but may not take advantage of what organizations such as NeighborImpact has to offer.
"What I want to do is let the veterans know that there are other resources available to them," he said. "If the VA says no, we have another avenue. You're not stuck."
While one thing is certain – there is no resources fair on Sept. 15 – some of the details for the new combined event are still unsettled. Dearth said he has some vendors lined up for the event, and he knows the Crook County Health Department will once again volunteer for the dinner and raise awareness for the services they can offer veterans. Also, the dinner will once again take place in Carey Foster Hall.
No firm date is set, although Dearth said organizers are targeting the week after Thanksgiving again. By then, veterans are back from family gatherings, and the event fits into the holiday season.
"I think we will be able to reach a larger audience," Dearth concluded.