Forty-five agencies, organizations and government offices set up booths in the auditorium of the county’s Juvenile Temporary Detention Center to provide help with employment, continuing education, housing, crisis counseling, and much more.
President Preckwinkle, who attended the event, greeted veterans and each of the vendors who were there to offer assistance.
“We are honored by the service of our veterans, and I am pleased that we can show them the support they need by gathering resources under one roof,” she said. “These fairs facilitate veterans finding the help they need, whether it’s a job, completing their education, or applying for rental assistance. The Veterans Assistance Commission did an outstanding job organizing the fair and we hope to continue hosting them on a regular basis.”
Dawn Dudek, a suicide prevention coordinator from the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, distributed information about the services and programs Jesse Brown offers, and handed out the number for the National Crisis Line for Veterans. She said about 25-30 calls a month from the national line are referred to Jesse Brown for immediate local support.
“It’s not only suicide—it’s vets who are in crisis and are reaching out for any help they can get,” Dudek said. “We provide that assistance and link them to the proper programs. We reached quite a few people today at the fair. We had veterans come by—as well as the spouses and parents of vets. We had a very good turnout.”
President Preckwinkle said that a special effort was made to include a suicide prevention coordinator at the Resource Fair.
“We’re very aware that suicide is epidemic among our veterans and we want to do everything we can to make our veterans aware of the counseling programs that are available to them,” she said.
Many veterans came to the fair with a long-burning hope of continuing their education. “I came here because I want to finish college and I need help with finances for school,” said John Clark, a Vietnam veteran. “I have an associate’s degree from City Colleges and I finished my junior year at Chicago State. Now I want to go back and get a bachelor’s degree in sociology because I want to work in social services. I got a lot of good information from Benedictine College.”
Linda Ross, a Coast Guard veteran, said she came to the Resource Fair “to look for job opportunities and housing.”
In addition to learning about employment, housing and educational opportunities, veterans were able to sign up for legal assistance, renew their driver’s license, or obtain a state ID. Ex-offenders were assisted with the expungement processes and learned about the SAFER Foundation, which helps ex-offenders.
Employment organizations represented included America Works, National Able Network, Chicagoland Regional College Program, and the Illinois Department of Employment Security. Benedictine University and City Colleges of Chicago were among the schools that provided help with enrollment.
As a bonus, every veteran who walked through the door could receive a free haircut.
The Veterans Assistance Commission of Cook County provides immediate assistance for honorably discharged veterans of Cook County who qualify under income guidelines. For more information about the VAC, call Julia Paxton-Coleman at (312) 433-6010.
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