Sheryl Briggs holds a list of 27 people who assisted in her effort to provide slippers to homeless veterans during the 20th annual Homeless Veterans Stand Down on Oct. 21 at Togus in Augusta. (Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times)
Sheryl Briggs was one of 210 volunteers at the 20th annual Homeless Veterans Stand Down on Oct. 21 at Togus in Augusta. She brought with her 125 pairs of handknitted slippers for veterans. (Submitted photo)
MEXICO — Former state Rep. Sheryl Briggs was one of 210 volunteers at the 20th annual Homeless Veteran Stand Down last month at Togus, handing out clothing and other items last month.
Stand Down is open to homeless and in-need veterans and their families. All services and items are provided free of charge.
Briggs learned about the program when she was a state representative in 2011 and has been volunteering ever since.
She said the No. 1 priority was to fit veterans with boots and socks because “their foot attire was in poor condition.” She said some of the veterans were in rough shape from living in tents in the woods. She said some were admitted to hospitals in serious condition.
Last spring, she estimated she would need to knit 75 pairs to outfit all the homeless veterans she anticipated would be attending Stand Down this fall. After asking for assistance in an April 19 article in the Rumford Falls Times, people stepped forward to knit, or donate material or money.
She ended up with 125 pairs of slippers, 45 of them she knit herself. Leftovers were shipped to northern Maine for another Stand Down on Nov. 4.
“I was overjoyed by the community support, and it made them feel good that they could help veterans as well,” she said.
Briggs said she knits slippers every winter, using a pattern that was her grandmother’s. She’s ready to start another slipper campaign and those interested in helping can contact her at email@example.com or at 207-364-5665.
“I will do this for as long as I can,” Briggs noted.
She said when veterans leave Stand Down, they take a care package that includes a sleeping bag, boots, a toiletries packet and a bagged lunch.
Thousands of veterans and their families have received assistance through the Stand Down event, which provides counseling and substance abuse referrals, employment and training, health care services, housing resources, legal services, wellness activities and a career fair.
Veterans and their families are also able to receive free clothing, meals, haircuts and personal care items.
Stand Down is a term that originated during the Vietnam War, used to describe the practice of removing combat troops from the field and taking care of their basic needs in a safe area.
According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, the Stand Down was “a safe retreat for units returning from combat operations,” where troops had access to clean uniforms, warm meals, medical and dental care, mail, and camaraderie, all in a safe environment.