Thousands of needy Nassau veterans, whose lives have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic, will be able to safely obtain free winter necessities next week as part of the county's 32nd annual Winter Veterans Stand Down.
The event Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Freeport Armory will be modified this year as part of the "pandemic pivot," according to County Executive Laura Curran. Many veterans, Curran said, are older and members of a population particularly vulnerable to the virus.
Veterans arriving by car will be required to stay in their vehicles and wear a mask, Curran said at a news conference Thursday outside the armory. Volunteers, often veterans themselves, will give the vets a single bag filled with a winter coat, a fleece jacket, boots, toiletries, nonperishable food items and a frozen Thanksgiving turkey.
"We are not letting COVID slow us down," Curran said.
Those arriving by foot will be asked to wait in line outside, while wearing a mask and social distancing, Curran said.
Only volunteers will be allowed access to the armory. Other in-person services, such as employment and mental health counseling, will not be provided this year.
"It really is a tough thing because we are not giving the services we usually provide," said Ralph Esposito, executive director of the Veterans Services Agency, which helps the county's estimated 56,000 veterans.
The Rev. Danilo Archbold, pastor of New Jerusalem Cathedral, Inc. in Elmont, said his parish was donating 400 new coats for the event.
"It's really an honor to give back to the community," said Archbold, a disabled veteran, "and to help those veterans truly in need."
Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy said many vets had lost their jobs and were in desperate need of assistance.
"Many people are not working," said Kennedy, who served in the Navy. "Many people are not even coming out of their house."