The Santa Clarita Veteran Services Collaborative is holding a Memorial Day weekend Backpack Walk to honor local veterans on Saturday, May 25, in Newhall.
“It’s going to be a fun day,” said Elliott Wolfe, president of the collaborative. “It’s on Memorial Day weekend so that we can honor the veterans that we service regularly at the center all year.”
The 3-mile walk will follow a wheelchair-friendly route, so anyone can participate, Wolfe said.
People are encouraged to bring backpacks to simulate the real backpack marches done by those in the service, and there will be prizes for various categories including heaviest backpack, according to David M. Jackson, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and vice president of the collaborative.
Registration is $30, and participants will receive a Tommy’s hamburger, ice cream from Augusta Financial and a gift bag upon completion. Nonparticipants can also purchase a meal ticket for $12.
All of the proceeds from the walk will go toward expanding the services provided by the Veteran Services Collaborative and improving the Veteran Center, according to Jackson.
“We hope this can become one central location in the city of Santa Clarita where all veterans and their families can come collaborate, share ideas and share resources,” Jackson said.
According to Jackson, there are an estimated 8,000 to 12,000 veterans located just in the Santa Clarita area.
“We originally started this program because knew there were no services in this community for the veterans,” Wolfe said.
The Veteran Center was opened by the collaborative last year and provides a place where local veterans can go for support, supplies or just somewhere they can spend time and talk with other veterans.
“The goal is to have a permanent therapist at the center so veterans and their families can feel comfortable coming in and talking to someone,” Jackson said.
Jackson also plans to begin providing job placement services to veterans through which they can get assistance with job leads as well as building their resumes or LinkedIn profiles and translating their military service to the civilian world.
The center has a food pantry, computers, library and resource table as well as a part-time veteran service officer (VSO) who can assist veterans in securing benefits from the government.
“This is a safe place where veterans can help other veterans,” Jackson said. “They need someone they can relate to who can talk to them about the challenges they’re encountering.”
The Veteran Services Collaborative itself is made up of local businesses, nonprofit organizations and individuals who provide pro bono or discounted services to veterans in the community and strive to better the lives of veterans and their families, according to Jackson.
The Veteran Center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located at 23222 Lyons Avenue in Newhall. Veterans can also come to the center on the first, second and third Saturday of the month from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to meet with a qualified VSO.
Registration for the Backpack Walk opens at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 25, and the walk will begin at 8:30 a.m. in the southeast corner of the Realty Executives’ parking lot on Lyons Avenue and Wiley Canyon Road in Newhall.
To learn more about the Backpack Walk or the Veteran Services Collaborative, visit https://www.scv-vets.org/ or call 661-670-8680.