Video courtesy of WCTV, Lindsey Stenger
On March 26th, the first Veteran’s Exposition was held at the Greene County Fairgrounds. Veterans and their families from all over Greene County were invited to attend. This event was held in order to show veterans the different types of benefits offered to them.
Mike Belding, Chairman of Greene County Commissions, said, “Veterans from this time did not get the respect they deserved.”
Belding had high hopes to change that with this event.
The Veteran Exposition went through several changes before being approved.
Kathy Cipcic, director at Greene County Veterans Affairs, said, “We were thinking of doing something smaller, like right here in the office, but in other conversations, it started getting too big.”
This eventually led to the Fairgrounds being rented out for the event so that it could hold a lot of attendees. According to the itinerary, this event was meant to help veterans with job opportunities, financial advice, mental health and more.
Belding described it as an “open house” structure, meaning that several booths were set up, each with unique information.
According to Cipcic, many of the booths wanted veterans to join different organizations. This was specifically targeted at the younger veterans as they could potentially receive benefits sooner.
This all led to the central idea of the event, which Cipic said was, “To raise awareness, educate our veterans and give them the information they need.”
Veterans and their families were able to browse each booth at their own pace. The structure was specifically chosen to accommodate the latest guidelines from the Pennsylvania Health Department and Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The event was held outside, and masks and social distancing were implemented.
The relaxed nature of the event also led to less concentrated crowds, which helped with social distancing.
“The timing of this event was good,” said Belding.
He believed that veterans were more willing to leave their houses now than they would have been last year at this time. The preparation team focused on getting the word out to the veterans about this event by spreading the message on the radio, in newspapers, on Facebook and the organization’s personal website.
The Veteran’s Exposition even garnered some attention from bigger news channels. Belding claimed that several reporters from Pittsburgh were coming down to write a blurb on the event.
Despite the size of Greene County, Belding admitted that it was difficult event information.
The more coverage on the event, the more awareness for veterans will be raised and Belding believed that to be a good thing.
“Vietnam veterans had it rougher than most due to the political climate at the time,” Belding said. Serving the veterans now is a priority now since they served America years ago.
When asked if there was another similar event planned for the future, Belding said, “This is planned to be the first of an annual event.”
It seems that this event is planned to become a mainstay in Greene County, meaning that awareness of veterans will likely continue to rise in the coming years.
“We’re glad to be helping out our veterans,” Cipcic said.