By LAURA QUEZADA News Review Staff Writer
The Ridgecrest Veterans Advisory Committee (RVAC) offers The Veterans Collaborative Meeting on the first flex Friday of the month at Calvary Chapel, 210 E. Springer Avenue. The meetings start at 8 am and go until about 1 pm, with snacks being offered. The next meeting will be held on Friday, June 9. Director Nick Coy, Secretary Carol Coy, and Members Thomas and Tammie Kirk shared this vital information for Veterans. One thing Carol wants Veterans to know is that they don’t have red tape. If you need something, they just do it.
The Collaborative Meeting is a local connection for Veterans to be able to meet with representatives from the Veterans Administration (VA). Professionals come from all over Southern California to offer their expertise and assistance. This month the VA is sending folks from mental health, benefits, and nutrition. There is a room set aside for private one-on-one counseling, folks can talk directly to a benefits specialist and register on-site for benefits, and there will be a presentation about diabetes, its effects, and what you can do about it.
In 2019, nearly 75% of Veteran respondents reported improvements at their local VA, and more than 90% would recommend VA care to fellow Veterans. Nick tells us, “If you’re not within 30 miles of a VA hospital, you can get health care through the VA in your own town. The VA pays the doctors what they would pay their VA doctors.”
Local specialists will also share information about their services. On hand will be 3-Star Ranch and Candy Coffee from THOR. In a News Review story printed Nov. 26, 2021, we learned “3 Star Ranch Equine Assisted Therapy solely serves Veterans at no cost thanks to funding through the VA Adaptive Sports grant. Participants attend eight weekly 60-minute sessions.” Rex and Anita Walraven became certified in 2015. “Rex says, ‘What you have here is horses, a mental health person, and I’m considered an equine specialist. All of us go out there with the client. Anita, I, and the horses pick up on energy. They know a person’s energy from across the arena, and they sense these things, and they start acting out the energy.”
After observation as to how the horses and participants respond, Anita may ask, “‘What do you think is going on there? Isn’t it interesting what you were sharing?’ Then Rex might say specifically what was going on with the horses as a way for them to externalize their process because that is powerful. We carry all our stuff inside. As we externalize it, it’s powerful because then they can see it play out.”
A new group, Mission Motorsports, will be in attendance handing out their business cards. Carol tells us that the group takes Veterans to their off-road races. “They take them out for a whole week and feed them, take care of them, do everything for them. And then they bring them back. It’s a good program because it gives them an adrenaline rush. It gives them an outreach, and then they get to bond with other Veterans the entire weekend. They sit around at night around the campfire and talk.”
The Kirks have been members of RVAC for a few years and have been in Ridgecrest and Trona pretty much all of their lives. They raise funds for the organization by selling branded merchandise through their business, Patriotic Creations. You can usually find them at a table with carved wooden flags, t-shirts, shot glasses, and refrigerator magnets. All proceeds go to RVAC. To find out more about their goods, you can text or call Thomas at (760) 876-0552.
Also on the calendar for RVAC is the Stand Down Resource Fair on Friday, September 29, from 8 am to 2 pm at the Kerr McGee Community Center. Carol tells us, “We’re fortunate the city donates the community center to us. We fill it with tables with anything and everything you can imagine. They come from as far away as Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego, with what different services they have for Veterans. Disabled American Veterans offer different things to Veterans. And then a lot of them come with jobs for Veterans. Anybody that has anything to offer the Veterans comes and sets up a table, and everything’s free. We feed them breakfast and lunch. They just come and go as they want all day.” Some Veterans come for the services, others come for the camaraderie. Volunteers have a map of what is available and escort folks to the table with the resource that interests them. Attendees register at the door, are given meal tickets, and are offered an escort.
Corporations donate. Pepsi-Cola donates sodas, and Crystal Geyser donates water. Volunteers need to drive to Bakersfield or Mojave to pick them up. Local Edge Ads donates flyers for the events. And there are a handful of regular volunteers: Kim and Bob Peterson, Carrie Ernst, Mary Grimsley, and Deborah Hartley.
Ridgecrest Veterans Advisory Council is always open for more volunteers and donations. There are no dues, all you need is the desire to help Veterans. You can reach Carol Coy at (760) 608-9251 or Nick Coy at (760) 608-1484.