The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony of the Women Veteran’s Center in Illinois was held on Saturday, July 25, 2015 with nearly 200 veterans, community and supporters passing through the facility.
According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs reportedly there are 54,707 women veterans in the State of Illinois.
The effort of our Illinois Women Veteran’s Community Center hopes to serve as a model across the nation for more women veterans to open similar facilities and for agencies, employers and legislators to get more involved to see how they can improve or better assist women veterans in their perspective communities.
With the recent reports of increased suicide rates among women veterans, we know that our quest to have a specific place for women veterans to come and be embraced no matter what they are going through is the right thing to do at any cost.
We are not trying to take the place of VA services or the Veteran Resource Centers but we do want to be there for our comrades when they are disconnected to those services or have lost trust in the systemic issues that still exist in VA systems and some National chartered organizations. In addition we want more flexible times for women veterans to be engaged with those who understand and have been there.
Maybe it’s on the weekend or during the week after 5:00 p.m., when the VA services are closed. We know you just don’t plan episodes of “right now I feel like dying.” There are triggers that can overcome one’s reasoning. Sometimes you may just need that person to person, not just a phone call or a stranger to sit and analyze you. Peer to Peer Specialists have been hired, trained and dispatched all over the nation and yet here in Illinois most women veterans don’t know they exist or where they are located. So the training for Peer to Peer support is one of our goals. Maybe as a woman veteran right now you don’t need anything but maybe you know someone who does.
NWVU members are of all walks of life, branch of service and war and peace time eras, officers, enlisted including women still serving in the Reserves and National Guards. A woman veteran will always be able to find a buddy in the group of women. Our Korean War women veteran members will be on hand to meet and entertain our senior women veterans who may be lonely or don’t go to Senior Centers. We encourage them to come by. They now have a safe place to visit and we will also encourage them to join the community Senior Centers so they can have both options.
We are working hard to encourage women veterans to stop by and find out what’s going on across the state of Illinois or nationally for women veterans. New property tax exemptions, veteran’s Drivers license, Cook County discount ID cards. Take a tour around the facility and look at photos and information about women in military history, sit in our meditation room, have a cup of coffee or tea, share conversation with other women veterans of every war era and branch of service. Give us recommendations or suggestions of what they would like to see in the Center. Visit our clothing closet if they are in need or get connected to the other Auburn Gresham community services near us at Catholic Charities, community faith based programs, Employment Center of St Sabina or just stop by for Bid Whist and Spades on a rainy day, maybe a movie or ZUMBA. Participate on Vendor day to sell their products.
Our goals for the IL Community Women Veteran’s Center are specific:
- Providing immediate assistance for women veterans with special emphasis on at risk and homeless women veterans until they are attached to a long term service provider and ensure they are safe when dislocated, at risk or homeless.
- Encourage enrollment in VA Health Care Systems.
- Provide Peer to Peer support to assist women veterans who may be challenged with mental health issues of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Military Sexual Trauma (MST) to develop or reinforce coping skills.
- Provide Financial Literacy Training.
- Implement Domestic Violence Training.
- Intensify smaller programs where more intimate one on one entrepreneurship training will better prepare and deliver the tools needed to successfully accomplish the creation of small businesses, because in Illinois women veteran businesses are low in numbers.
- Develop mentoring programs with community girls by lending our leadership skills and the unique experiences of our members who have great achievements in various careers with a focus to thwart violent behavior, strengthen civility and empower them with moral values and citizenship.
We are proud of what we do, who we do it for and why we do it and we thank the MacArthur Foundation staff who made this opportunity possible. All services, assistance or participation are FREE. You are invited to come and share veteran information or receive information.
For more information about the Illinois Women Veteran’s Community Center click here.