JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – On Monday, March 27, Tri-Cities locals will have the opportunity to attend what is being advertised as the largest veteran-focused event in the region. The inaugural Veteran Fair of East Tennesee is set to host over 70 veteran service organizations inside the Millennium Center at East Tennesee State University (ETSU) from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Attendees can expect information panels, community resources and various presentations by guest speakers who are veterans themselves. The event is both open and free to the public.
The planning committee for the fair included representatives from the Tri-Cities Military Affairs Council (TMAC), ETSU, Goodwill and The Warrior’s Canvas.
The Warrior’s Canvas initiated the project and modeled the event to allow for collaboration from fellow non-profits and community organizations, with GoodWill playing a vital role.
Dan Malinowski is the director of veteran services with GoodWill Industries of Tenneva, Inc. Malinowski moved to the area two years ago and said he recognized the need for an event like this early on.
“It’s important for the community to understand what our veterans have done for us,” Malinowski said. “I’d like to see, with the organizations that are going to attend, how much support we have. I’ve lived in a couple of different states, and I’ve never seen an event this large.”
Maria Whiston is the volunteer coordinator for The Warrior’s Canvas and gives credit to what some may consider an unlikely source.
“Had COVID-19 never happened, I don’t think this event would have happened,” Whiston said. “I think we understood how detrimental it is to be isolated. Veterans are adaptable to many things, but being cut off or limited for an extended period to their veteran resources was something new to many.”
Whiston believes the community event will help pick up the pieces left behind after the pandemic.
“No one is glad COVID-19 came along,” she said. “But we can certainly try and take control back and learn new ways to outsmart it.”
Both Whiston and Malinowski worked alongside Jeremy Dubhros, a graduate student at ETSU who participated in the early planning period as an intern with The Warrior’s Canvas.
Like Malinowski, he believes the event will be invaluable to the community.
“Veterans are the key to addressing many of the intercultural issues we’re facing in today’s society,” Dubhros said. “[The event] will address many of the needs of the veteran community. I am honored to be a part of it.”
Some of the topics that will be addressed include increasing communication between nonprofits and the need for organizations catered toward women veterans.