One weekend every July, thousands of volunteers across San Diego come together to offer support to and inspire hope in homeless veterans during one special event. The event, Operation Stand Down, started in San Diego in 1988 and is now replicated in more than 200 cities across the nation.
Vietnam Veterans of San Diego (now called Veterans Village of San Diego, or VVSD) designed Operation Stand Down as a way to provide a range of services to homeless veterans in one convenient place. VVSD’s primary goal was to create a community in which veterans are treated with respect and given the opportunity to relax, interact and form ties with peers and volunteers while receiving much-needed support.
This year, more than 200 Sharp HealthCare employees are expected to participate in the event.
Sharp Lends a Hand
Sharp Lends a Hand, a community volunteer program, was established in 2008 when employees expressed interest in volunteering for projects that improve the health and well-being of the San Diego community. Recognizing that so many local veterans were in need of help, Sharp partnered with VVSD.
Each year prior to Operation Stand Down, dedicated staff, community partners and volunteers run a clothing drive. They then sort thousands of donations, set up the clothing tent and serve as “personal shoppers” for veterans. In addition, Sharp employees provide ’round-the-clock medical and pharmacy services during the event.
“At Sharp, we are committed to serving members of the San Diego community in need,” says Rachel Gold, program coordinator for Sharp Lends a Hand. “We rely on our many wonderful volunteers to honor this commitment.” Since it first partnered with VVSD in 2008, Sharp Lends a Hand has provided over 3,000 volunteers for Operation Stand Down.
Serving our veterans
Operation Stand Down is just one of many volunteer programs coordinated through Sharp Lends a Hand, and over the years, it has become the most popular among employees.
“As part of The Sharp Experience, the Sharp Lends a Hand program allows us to give back to the community who so generously supports us and the work we do,” explains Lynn Skoczelas, chief experience officer at Sharp HealthCare. “With the large number of homeless veterans in San Diego, the event is an opportunity for employees to support the heroes who have defended our country.”
While Operation Stand Down is a special experience for every volunteer, it holds particular meaning for veterans. Melody Barnhart, a veteran and Sharp employee, shares what Sharp’s support of Operation Stand Down means to her. “I can’t put into words how proud I am of my organization and community for helping the heroes who sacrificed so much for our country,” she says. “We are showing these veterans that they are important, their sacrifices are not forgotten and that someone cares.”
Prior to working for Sharp, Melody served 12 years in the U.S. Navy, completing deployments to Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kuwait. She is now the administrative assistant to the director of Professional Practice and Nursing Operations at Sharp Grossmont Hospital.
“Volunteering for Operation Stand Down makes me feel good,” she says. “It shows that one person can cause change, but when a community comes together, we can have a huge impact on those in need.”
Learn more about how Sharp Lends a Hand is helping to better the San Diego community.
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