In a room full of draped tables topped with piles of pamphlets, retired Air Force officer Lawrence Autry of Atwater found someone who may be able to replace his 1970s refrigerator.
Autry smiled and pointed at his folder covered in scribbled notes.
Thursday's Veterans' Information Fair came through for Autry.
He went to the event just to see what it could offer and found a representative for Western Insulation, a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. contractor. The woman explained she could help Autry find out if he qualifies for certain low-income programs through PG&E that can replace outdated appliances with energy-efficient ones.
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The one-day fair, organized by local officials from California's Employment Development Department, brought together about 25 agencies and companies that offer services and programs for veterans.
Tony Martin of Atwater went to work for Gallo winery after retiring from the Air Force. He will soon retire from Gallo without any health care benefits. At the fair, Martin was able to find the forms he needs to apply for veterans' health care benefits.
"It's great because there are a lot of times you don't know where to go," he said. "I wish they'd have it more often."
The last veterans' information fair was held two years ago.
Charles Bussey of Merced, an Army and Navy veteran who served in Vietnam, stood in front of the Employment Development Department's table. He came to the fair to get help looking for a job. Bussey's trucking company is going under with the high price of fuel and intense competition by larger companies for fewer contracts.
Don Strong, a veterans' employment service specialist, said veterans "are out of work just as much as the regular public.
"It's tough out there right now for everyone."
Enter Frank Mandujano and his colorful brochures of beautiful Yosemite National Park.
Mandujano, a recruitment specialist for Delaware North Cos., offered the veterans information about working for DNC in its variety of park resort management positions.
"We want to keep a presence and let the community know we have opportunities for them," Mandujano said.
Jim Eber, a veterans' work force specialist for the EDD, said 100 people came to the fair Thursday, and he plans to hold it again next year.
"I couldn't be more pleased. Everybody I talked to had nothing but good things to say," Eber said.
Reporter Amy Starnes can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.