Greene County is planning its first Veterans Expo at the fairgrounds next week.

According to Kathy Cipcic, director of the Greene County Veterans Affairs office, the county is partnering with Aetna Health Insurance to sponsor the event from 2 to 6 p.m. March 26.

“It is a great opportunity for Greene County to come together showcasing services and benefits for our military community,” Kelly Boyle, director of Community Outreach for Aetna Medicare, said in a news release.

Cipcic said there will be about 28 vendors with information and tips on benefits, social networking, jobs, housing, finances and mental and physical health. Due to the pandemic, not every vendor will be staffed, and instead will simply offer brochures. There will also be prizes, entertainment and refreshments.

“I just hope it is a success,” Cipcic said. “We’re just trying to get our veterans more help. We want them to know we work for them. We want them to get what they deserve.”

Cipcic said her office assists roughly 3,000 people, which includes local veterans, their spouses and children. The expo is open to all veterans, not just Greene County residents, she said.

“At some of our veterans council meetings, there have been veterans that made comments previously about getting some things taken care of,” Cipcic said. “With Aetna, we thought, ‘Let’s try something and see where it goes from there.’”

County Commissioner Mike Belding said that as a veteran, he hopes others will take advantage of the expo.

“I think the characteristics of veterans are that they’re generally selfless people,” he said. “I think they often take care of others before themselves. There’s this attitude among veterans that they don’t want free help – they’ll take care of themselves. They’re very self-sufficient and don’t often reach out for help. These are the benefits that individuals have earned. And if it wasn’t earned it wouldn’t be available to you.”

Belding said his message has always been that veterans have earned those benefits.

“Whether they’re looking for age care or assistance with home heating or medical assistance, this gives them an opportunity,” Belding said. “And the timing probably couldn’t be better.”

Belding said that with the number of COVID-19 cases dropping and the number vaccinations increasing, people may be more comfortable attending the event, especially since it will be in a wide open space.

“A lot of the reports we hear now are talking about the effects of isolation,” Belding said. “That cycle of a year-long of isolation and loneliness has had an effect on veterans, especially older vets who might not be on the internet. I’m sure there’s a group of these folks who will finally feel comfortable going out.”

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