The food was Sonoma-fresh Mexican, the music was 'Nam-era oldies, and the sense of gratitude was palpable at a dinner dance in Santa Rosa on Saturday night that raised funds to assist military veterans who struggle for basics such as shelter, employment and health care.

The party at Santa Rosa's Veterans Memorial Building was a benefit for the services to vets provided by the Redwood Empire Chapter, No. 223, of Vietnam Veterans of America.

It kicked off with cocktails served by members of the American Legion. Guests arrived in the building's main hall, decked in red, white and blue, and mingled to a DJ's musical accompaniment.

Dinner was a sumptuous buffet by chef/owner Octavio Diaz's Agave Mexican Restaurant and Tequila Bar in Healdsburg.

Following dinner, it was time to dance. The local band Los Ritmicos showcased its versatility with a foot-moving repertoire of '60s and '70s rock favorites, Mexican songs and other standards.

The sponsoring Vietnam Veterans of America chapter works to assist men and women who have served their country. VVA Chapter 223 is a partner in Sonoma County Vet Connect, a nonprofit that hosts regular walk-in opportunities for vets of all ages to get some help.

Through Vet Connect, the VVA gives vets a hand to obtain housing, employment, food, assistance with legal issues and Veterans Administration benefits.

Shelters for Pawnee fire evacuees

Lower Lake High School, 9430 Lake St., Lower Lake, is the official shelter established for people evacuating from the Pawnee fire. It is equipped to handle animals.

The Clearlake Oaks Moose Lodge, 15900 E. Highway 20, Clearlake Oaks, is not authorized by the Office of Emergency Services but is also sheltering fire evacuees, mostly people in campers and RVs who want their animals with them.

There is an authorized Lake County animal services station in an open field at Highway 53 and Anderson Ridge Road in Lower Lake.