Veterans learn about benefits and socialize at 'Supermarket' event
Story County Veteran Affairs Director Brett McLain looked around the Ames Moose Lodge last Friday morning and was pleased with the early turnout for his annual Veterans Supermarket. “This might be our best turnout yet,” he said about the event, which featured a dozen or more veterans-related agencies, that set up booths to educate veterans about a variety of benefits and resources that are available to them.
Louis Lloyd of Nevada, a retired Army Reservist, said every year he comes to the Supermarket, which has been held since 2003. When he came for the first time, Lloyd said, “It was just so much information that I didn’t know about.” He was able to find out about an affordable secondary health insurance that helps him and his wife, Kathy, tremendously, as she has a lung disease. “It’s fantastic,” he said.
Jim Meek of Ames, a retired Army veteran who served in Vietnam, said he comes usually every year. “It’s been very helpful. I’ve gotten a lot of services since coming here.”
Luke Jensen, a veterans specialist with the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs (and a retired Nevada Police officer, as some might recall), said it’s good that veterans come back year after year to learn about any new or changed benefits.
The Story County Veterans Supermarket has grown, not only in attendance, but also in what’s offered. Some services may be new; others may be a few years old. Flu shots and hair cuts were among the free things offered this year.
Barber Stacy Bane of State Center has been providing the cuts for three years. “I was listening to Kim Neal speak at an American Legion Conference (a few years back),” she said, pointing out Neal, of Des Moines, who was representing the Homeless Veterans Stand Down and Homeless Outreach for the VA Hospital. Neal spoke at that conference about different ways of helping veterans, and Bane said she felt called to do what she could. “I thought, well, I can do something. I know how to cut hair.” As veteran G. David Wierson of Ames sat down in her barber chair, he was glad to have that professional help. He said she might find a few uneven places with his hair, because he sometimes trims his own. “Oh, one of those!” Bane said with a laugh.
When you put a lot of veterans together, as Terry Greenfield of Story City, who is a veteran affairs commissioner for the county, will tell you, they like to visit, share laughs and he said, they like to sing. McLain had brought in Ames resident Charmian Stewart, who belted out the “Star Spangled Banner” with her amazing, beautiful and powerful voice as the event was kicking off. Greenfield smiled about it. “I don’t care how good a singer the person is, when you have veterans gathered, they will sing along.” And they did.
For Story County veterans and other central Iowa veterans who haven’t attended a supermarket event, it is a casual, come-and-go setting, with people to answer many questions you might have, and it’s a great opportunity to socialize. McLain said the all-day event is held the first Friday after Veterans Day each year, and for the past 10 years now, it’s been at the Moose Lodge.