Veterans Extravaganza fosters connection with Pahrump veterans

Former military service members were the focus of the day during the 2nd Annual Veterans Extravaganza.

The resource fair on Friday, March 9 provided an environment in which veterans and the many service organizations of the Pahrump Valley could network with each other under one roof, fostering a deep connectivity for all.

Beginning at 10 a.m. that morning, the doors of the Bob Ruud Community Center were thrown open and the throngs of veterans started to pour in. Only five minutes into the event, the vendors were busy at their exhibit booths, talking to attendees, helping direct residents to the resources they were seeking and interacting with all of the other organizations present. The steady buzz of a plethora of voices all chatting at once created an atmosphere of bustling activity.

Dr. Tom Waters, a veteran member of many local organizations and event committee member, seemed quite excited by all that was happening that morning. “Things are going great!” Waters enthused. “Look how many people are here! That is what it is all about.”

Lead event organizer Cles Saunders agreed, beaming happily around at the room filled with vendors and attendees. “We’ve got a lot of good vendors here,” he said brightly. “Even more than last year and we are just glad to be able to put this on.”

Vast variety of vendors

A total of 35 exhibitors were on hand at the Veterans Extravaganza, ranging from state and federal veterans organizations such as the Nevada Department of Veterans Services and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to local entities such as Nye County Health and Human Services, Nevada Outreach Training Organization, Nevada Rural Counties RSVP Inc. and many, many more.

At the NyE Communities Coalition Workforce booth, workforce director Tammi Odegard said she was experiencing a fairly continuous stream of interested attendees. Her booth was stocked with information in the form of pamphlets, flyers, job notices and more, giving veterans much to consider when perusing her table.

“It’s been going good,” Odegard said that morning. “Veterans are our priority of service. We help them find jobs or get training for a new career.” As Odegard was explaining, another attendee walked up to the booth to learn more. She immediately began to direct the resident, pointing to pertinent materials for them to collect.

“This is a training program that we have coming up,” she said, picking up the related information. “We also have a staffing service, like a temp agency, so if somebody is interested in that they can apply with us. And we also have a job board at the coalition campus. This here is just a sampling of what we have on our job board right now. We’ve got about 150 jobs posted today at the coalition campus.”

The Nye County Valor Quilters were seeing a fairly steady flow of attendees to their booth as well, where they were assisting veterans or their family members in signing up for their program. The Valor Quilters focus on providing unique, handmade quilts to veterans with the mission of bringing comfort and recognition to those who have served and sacrificed.

“In two years we have given over 200 quilts,” Nye County Valor Quilters Public Relations Representative Marilyn Swango said during the extravaganza.

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #10054 Auxiliary member Linda Wright was another participant, manning that organization’s booth. “This is all of the things that we do as the auxiliary and this details what the VFW does right here in Pahrump,” she said, handing out brochures detailing the post’s charitable efforts.

Each year, the VFW Post #10054 hosts the local Veterans Stand Down, as well as annual Veterans Day and Memorial Day ceremonies. The third Friday of each September, the VFW holds special ceremonies to commemorate prisoners of war and those declared missing in action.

The Buddy Poppies program is another that touches the community, with the VFW selling these bright red flowers every election in order to raise funds to aid veterans in need. The organization also has the only veterans food pantry in Pahrump, along with a clothing bank.

On the younger side of things, the VFW also inspires patriotism in the next generation through the Patriots Pen and Voice of Democracy essay contests, held for middle school and high school students, respectively. The group sponsors a Teacher of the Year award and annual recognition for first responders as well.

“We concentrate on the past, present and future, with memorials for those who have gone before us, services for those who are with us now, and we are always looking to the future with our young kids,” Wright said. “We do so much at the VFW and we just want everyone to be aware of all that we have available.”

The Disabled American Veterans Chapter #15 hosted a booth too and member Cathy Girard was glowing with delight at the Veterans Extravaganza turnout.

“This is already a huge success,” Girard said. “I remember last year’s and it took a little while to get the steam going but here we are, 20 minutes in and this is wonderful.”

Other vendors included state and local Veterans Service officers, mental health representatives, VETrans bus service, the Salvation Army, various support groups, PBS, EPI Alpha-Stim, Legal Shield/Sassy, the USO, Nathan Adelson Hospice and more.

In addition to manning their booths, vendors were given the chance to do formal presentations during the event as well. Saunders said this was one of his favorite components overall.

A successful endeavor

“The highlights were the presentations by the different vendors,” Saunders said after the Veterans Extravaganza came to a close. “Also, the raffles were changed to allow vendors at each table to speak about who they were and what they had to offer to our veterans before that specific prize was raffled off.”

All in all, Saunders said the event was a big success. “There were 137 veterans who showed up, up from 87 last year,” he detailed. “There were also 54 non-veterans who attended.”

The Veterans Extravaganza was born out of a desire by Assemblyman James Oscarson and local veterans to do whatever they could to help former military members, Saunders stated. The event is organized by a group that has titled itself “Assemblyman Oscarson’s Committee for Veterans Issues.”

“Our Veterans Committee founder, Assemblyman Oscarson, was there to welcome the veterans and vendors that came out and he also thanks the committee members for their help in putting this event together,” Saunders concluded. Committee members included Bill Dolan, Terry Janke, Reggie Knight, Jose Telles, Beverly Baker, Alice Lubbers, Catherine Longhouser, Frank Carbone, Waters and Saunders. Saunders was also sure to offer gratitude to the DAV Auxiliary, which provided refreshments for all to enjoy.

For more information on the Committee for Veterans Issues, the Veterans Extravaganza or any of the vendors that participated, contact Saunders at 775-513-6604.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes.

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