Ask Alfredo “Tito” Medina how he fills the Tacoma Dome year after year with services for veterans and he’ll laugh that the secret is his and his partners’ refusal to “sell out.”
They cobble together a network of government-funded and nonprofit services aimed at helping veterans in need. They also look for services that give a lift to those who are looking to buy homes or find new careers.
They make it happen with a sometimes street-level campaign targeting some of the hardest-to-reach veterans in Pierce County.
“People feel the energy,” Medina, a Navy veteran, said. “It makes sense. It’s something you feel inside your belly. That’s been the appeal. At the end of the day, that’s why people donate and work with us.”
On Saturday, he’s expecting more than 1,400 veterans to turn out to the Dome for Tacoma’s third Veterans Resource Fair. They’ll get attention from 144 organizations that rented booths, as well as dozens of volunteers.
Veterans with urgent needs will be able to get medical attention, dental care, resources for the homeless and a range of services from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Fair participants also will provide hundreds of sleeping bags, clothes and day packs.
“If you are a veteran, active duty, National Guard or a military family member and you have a question for the veterans community or even the military community, you’re going to find an answer at this event,” Medina said.
Medina and former partner Scott Pondelick began organizing veterans events four years ago, both to help people in need and to build connections between nonprofits that provide assistance to veterans.
This year marks a changing of the guard. Pondelick was unavailable. Army veteran Shawn Durnen volunteered to be a lead organizer.
Medina, too, is preparing to move on. He relocated to Kansas City, Kansas, in the past year for a job opportunity, although he worked on this weekend’s event and plans to attend it.
He thinks the resource fair will live on with support from organizations like the Pierce County Veterans Bureau and the state and federal departments of Veterans Affairs.
The fair may change with time, but Medina hopes to see it maintain its original spirit.
“It’s a giant party. We’re going to get to know people in our community. It sounds crazy, but it takes craziness to change the world, change the environment. If we continue to do what was always there, nothing will come about,” he said.
Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646, @TNTMilitary
If you go:
The Tacoma Veterans Resource Fair begins at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Tacoma Dome.
For more information:
Go to: theveteransresourcefair.us