By Alicia Doyle

The Writer
Specializing in Good News
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Photo by Joe Lumaya/Ventura County Star

Simi Valley event helps veterans and their families

November 3, 2014

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. - A lieutenant colonel with the U.S. Marines, veteran R.J. Kelly said he was proud to offer his support on Sunday at an event that served veterans and their families while raising awareness of their needs.

Hosted by the Simi Valley Moose Lodge, the Rock for Veterans Cut-A-Thon offered free haircuts, manicures and make-up services provided by Marinello School of Beauty students, who volunteered their time for the cause.

“We want veterans to take advantage of benefits available through the VA hospital,” said Kelly, of Santa Clarita.

Sunday’s event also featured live music from several bands, who volunteered their time, as well as free food donated by local businesses. Several vendors also donated $75 each to showcase their booths on site.

“Our goal is to feed 200 veterans,” said Don Knypstra, of Chatsworth, event organizer whose nonprofit, Ridone Inc., provides free cosmetology services to those in need. “Everybody here is donating their time and the Moose Lodge supplied the venue.”

Warren Heinrich, a Navy veteran who spent 13 months in Vietnam, wanted to inspire better treatment of today’s servicemen and women when they return from duty.

“They deserve recognition that we didn’t get when we came back … we were called child killers, we went through hell,” said Heinrich, of Santa Clarita. “It’s important that they’re getting everything that we didn’t when they come back. It’s what they’ve earned.”

Greg Feo, whose father is an Army veteran, was among those who received a free haircut. He also donated his expertise as a “sound guy” to the bands on site, while his wife, Carrie, donated her time giving manicures.

“We’re here for the cause; it’s important,” said Feo, of Simi Valley. “Veterans are the backbone of our country and they deserve our attention – more than they’re getting.”

Jim Mitchell, a barber who lives in Simi Valley, volunteered because he is an Army veteran.

“We’ve got our freedom because of veterans,” Mitchell said.

Ron Whitaker, who conducted fundraisers in previous months to help support Sunday’s event, said “it’s all about giving back to our vets.”

“If we don’t give back to our vets what good are we?” said Whitaker, of Simi Valley.

He called the plight of homeless veterans “despicable.”

“It’s very disheartening to me to see that there are more empty homes out here than homeless people and there’s a lot of homeless veterans,” Whitaker said. “We’re going to stand up for people who stood up for us; this is our way of giving back.”

Katrina Long, an instructor with Marinello School of Beauty who was accompanied by 10 student volunteers, noted the beauty school offers 50 percent off to veterans Monday through Thursday.

“We try to support any cause that helps veterans,” she said.

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