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Behind The Scenes: Operation Stand Down

Outreach mission: A Lifetime Commitment

Patti Templeton, Founder and Executive Director of One Community Now in New Port Richey, Florida, sat down with FireWatch Magazine to share the foundation’s origin story.

Our attention has been brought to One Community Now for how they help veterans. We learn that it’s not only veterans they help. If you are in need, someone at One Community Now wants to listen to your story and help you find a solution.

Veterans now have their own place, the somewhat new Veterans Support Center located at 4620 Professional Loop in New Port Richey. One Community Now is a faith-based organization, and the story behind how the Professional Loop location came to be proves that prayers are answered.

Patti had worked at a church for nearly 17 years and had been part of setting up an outreach ministry there. At the time, the Pastor had been a missionary for over 30 years and focused on global outreach. Patti, who was from Detroit, Michigan, had experienced poverty in her home state. She knew full well the struggle was also very real here in central Florida.

“I had a heart for local outreach,” says Patti. “The two of us got together to form One Community Now as a separate 501(c)(3) from the church, and he believed in me; he really inspired leadership in me,” she recalls of her then pastor.

Initially, there weren’t any employees at the new non-profit organization, but by 2018, two had been hired as missionaries moving into neighborhoods to reach the community. The project began as our Pack-A-Sack Program.

Change was forced on our efforts when a new pastor took over at the church and decided to close the outreach program, firing all the staff. Patti knows God was in control because the current location of One Community Now, located on Main Street in New Port Richey, had initially been another non-profit organization that decided to close operations amid the COVID-19 epidemic of 2020.

The struggling organization approached Patti and asked her to become the new director of the non-profit. They told her she could change the name and do whatever she wanted with it. They only asked that she continue helping people with employment needs.

Patti quickly embraced the opportunity and opened One Community Now as a local outreach.

When One Community Now opened, Patti had already been part of one Stand Down event and was still doing the Pack-A-Sack Program in nearby neighborhoods. The new organization made acquiring funding for the program more accessible and allowed Patti and her team to begin helping the homeless with housing and other needs.


Local Stand Down History

Patti and her church outreach program had the first Stand Down event in 2011. The group had learned the initial model of a Stand Down from a veteran who had lived in San Diego, California, where a Stand Down outreach event had been held for Vietnam Veterans.

At the time, the church’s outreach program had about 12 committed to utilizing the San Diego model here in Florida. The group researched and learned how to hold a Stand Down event. For the first couple of years, it was only a one-day event. Eventually, it became a two-day event and, later, three.

The San Diego team had always held their Stand Downs at fairgrounds or baseball fields. The team approached park managers at the Veterans Memorial Park in Hudson, and together, they worked with the County to use the city park.

“The County actually did a Declaration of Stand Down Day,” says Patti.

“The Stand Down events used to be held in the Fall, but we were always dodging hurricanes and bad weather. We would have these large military tents set up for homeless veterans to rest for the night, and they would be in constant danger of blowing away,” says Patti.

Eventually, the team scouted and found the Concourse Pavilion, which had a stationary 10,000-square-foot covered pavilion that would work well for the event. But they still had to devise a way to manage the overnight portion of the event without the tents.

They were able to use the Fasano Center for a couple of years and later began utilizing local school gymnasiums for overnight use.

“This worked out well because the attendees could use the showers and other amenities. We held yoga there, breakout sessions, and even had people come in to cut hair,” says Patti.

“Everyone attending the event overnight gets to the gymnasium at about 6:00 pm. They are provided breakfast and transported back to the Stand Down pavilion the next morning. We staff the gymnasium with overnight room and shower monitors, and we have Chaplains there the entire time, so if someone can’t sleep, they have someone to sit and talk to.”


The Stand Down

One Community Now spearheads the annual Stand Down outreach event in Pasco County each year.

“We have a lot of connections that allow us to utilize everyone in the community,” Patti says.


Veteran’s Court

“On the Friday of the event, we have Veteran’s Court,” Patti explains. “There is a judge on site and people from the public defender’s office and the prosecutor’s office who work together on veteran cases needing fines or fees dismissed to get back their licenses.”


Florida Southern Baptist Convention Dental Program & Mission Smiles

“Florida Southern Baptist bring down a bus full of equipment to provide free dental work. We also work with Mission Smiles, which sets up a tent in the hygiene area.”

“Veterans can have their teeth cleaned, pulled, cavities filled. Last year, veterans received free dentures! At least 20 veterans received new dentures last year. Now, we have a waiting list for dentures,” Patti says.


Plethora of Resources

“We have people on-site to assist with housing, employment, education, mental health, and physical health. Last year, we had acupuncture and yoga. Social work students from St. Leo’s University set up the R&R tent with couches and games. It’s a place to come, sit and relax, and play cards and dominoes. There is an arts & crafts area, a chaplain’s tent, and a donations tent where veterans can get shoes and clothes, hygiene products, and other essentials,” says Patti.

“Food and drinks, as well as workshops, trivia, bingo, dancing, and much more, are always available. With over 50 vendors participating, we make it the most all-encompassing three-day event for veterans as possible.”


Getting Them There

For the first couple of years, there were about 150 veterans who attended the Stand Down events. Participation has increased to more than 350, with 80 percent of attendees being veterans.

Word is spread throughout the tri-county area about the event at Veteran Service Centers, food banks, soup kitchens, libraries, and anywhere else veterans might be. Busses are dispatched all over to provide transportation to the event. There are yard signs, flyers, and car magnets. One Community Now uses every possible resource to spread the word.

“This is a service for veterans, so the event has a strict entry policy. We want veterans to feel like this is their event. Everything that is being given out is to honor veterans,” explains Patti.

When asked if the Stand Down event makes a difference on the One Community Now website, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

“Over the past seven years, we have been able to work with over 1,000 struggling veterans and their family members to connect them to services and resources,” says Patti.

This year’s Operation Stand Down will be held April 19-20, 2024.


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