Veterans Stand Down Fills Camp Algonquin

This may be the last time the Veterans Stand Down sponsored by Crystal Lake’s NASA Education may occur at Camp Algonquin.

It’s not because yesterday’s event, the fourth at Camp Algonquin, was a failure.

Just the opposite.

The over 200 veterans, many homeless, filled the camp on the Fox River.

John Blanchard, head of the sponsoring organization, which specializes in finding good paying jobs for veterans, told me that the number of men and women attending the event is doubling each time.

This is the fourth Stand Down.

McHenry County Blog has written stories about each of them:

10-4-6 Veterans Stand Down Attracts 26 Homeless Veterans

3-7-7 Veterans’ Stand Down Notes

10-7-7 Camp Algonquin Stand Down for Veterans to take place October 8 and 9

Manzullo at Camp Algonquin Stand Down

Headlining the event Monday was State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, a Democrat from Aurora and veteran herself.

In her sixth term, she can be seen above talking to my former legislative assistant Pete Castillo before she addressed the veterans. Pete is the area unemployed veterans’ counselor of choice.

The attendees were in various stages of eating a scrumptious lunch provided for free by Pontarelli’s Pizza at the corner of Route 176 and Oak Street (815-477-4040) in Crystal Lake and by Kyoto Japanese Restaurant on Route 14 in Crystal Lake, next to the Old Country Buffet.

Blanchard said that Kyoto chef Shawn Lee, a Chicago resident, got up at 5 A.M. to make his bounteous luncheon fair, which I can attest from three helpings was excellent. Mrs. Chris Lee said it was a several day effort. (Less than half of the Lee’s contribution can be seen to the left.)

The Lee’s so generous contribution embodied the attitude of the volunteers that helped put on the event.

And coffee came from the Downtown Crystal Lake Starbucks.

But, back to State Rep. Chapa LaVia.

She surely knows how to talk to veterans.

After telling of her support for veterans benefits, she concluded with this strong line:

“…until I have no breath left to scream, I’ll be saying that.”

I was taking pictures, as usual, and didn’t get a chance to write down other parts of her talk.

Chapa LaVia received a rousing reception.

Earlier she had told Castillo and me that she was pushing federal congressmen to separate benefits veterans have earned from the Defense Department budget. This former Executive Office of the President budget guy agreed.

Castillo, Rep. Chapa LaVia and her husband met at the Million Veteran March, at which Castillo and she spoke and which he was one of the veterans leading the others up the mall to the United States Capitol.

When Blanchard was introducing Rep. LaVia, he said,

“Make sure you get around to the service providers.”

“Make sure they provide service.”

After lunch, I finally got a picture of the hair stylists.

Previously, I had just found empty chairs.

From left to right, you can see

  • Marie Borre of Sports Clips Salon in McHenry,
  • Kristina Weingartner of Blades Salon on Randall Road in Algonquin,
  • Krissy Dougherty, also of Blades, and
  • Nicole Borress, a third stylist from Blades.

I also found Lockport Healing Touch practitioner Karen Johnson.

I pointed out to Johnson that you can’t get from here to Lockport. She admitted that it was a two hour drive. In two hours I can be more than half way to Springfield.

Guess whose head her hands were on?

McHenry County Board member Mary Donner.

She keeps telling me that I can never take a good picture of her. This one with John Blanchard received her approval.

Shortly before three Castillo and I were standing in front of the Camp Algonquin Lodge and what should occur but a traffic jam.

A veteran was coming down the hill in a powerful motorized wheel chair with a Jesse Brown bus behind him.

There were vehicles everywhere.

And, was it foggy.

But, I guess fog is better than the earlier downpour.

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