Doctoral students inspired to help homeless women veterans
On a rainy, blustery day in Seattle, Brandman University doctoral students Jennifer Marzocca, from Whidbey Island, and Karen Bolton, from Bremerton (shown at left, form left) have tables filled with goodie bags, jewelry, makeup and clothing at the Seattle Stand Down Event, designed to offer aid to veterans.
One by one, women veterans, some homeless and others fighting to make ends meet, come by to study the items.
“They’re for you,” said Marzocca. “Please take what you need.”
The women take an item or two, careful to take only what they need so there’s something for others. One woman veteran explains she needs socks and receives a couple of new pairs. Another woman’s face lights up when she spies the makeup.
“Oh, I can’t afford Mary Kay makeup on my own,” said Joanne, who only wanted to give her first name. “This is such a treat!”
And she walks off with new mascara, eye liner and eye shadow.
In this case, it was a wire hanger. The group had to show how they could transform the hanger to create value and how they would measure that value. Several members in the group are retired veterans, so when they suggested a project to help homeless women veterans, the group agreed, using the hanger as inspiration to collect clothing and other donations to help these women in need.
“As we talked about ethics and value, being ethical is doing the right thing when no one else is looking,” said Bolton. “We’re not doing this for any recognition, but as a way to give back. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for my time in the Navy, and this is how I can give back.”
About this time, Joanne returns, and asks if she can look at clothing because she needs a shirt. The women are happy to oblige and turn to the donated rack of clothing to find “just the thing.”
Joanne is a disabled veteran who retired from the Air Force after 21 years as a flight nurse. She says times are tough and nice things are hard to come by.
Marzocca, a retired Navy veteran herself, explained it’s important to help people like Joanne remember their strength, while honoring their service.
“At the end of the day, we all graduated boot camp,” said Marzocca. “We all made it through, and I want to help them recognize they are the same person as when they graduated so they can draw on that strength.”
There’s Teri, who as a single parent served for a short time as an alert force controller in the Air Force. She left the service in 1980, and found herself homeless in 2011. Teri found temporary housing at the Shoreline Veteran Program, and now lives in senior housing in Seattle.
“This means a lot,” said Teri, who didn’t want to share her last name. “People on disability don’t get much, so what they offer helps me through some tough financial times.” She said socks and toiletries will make a big difference in stretching her budget.
Every woman who comes to the event has a similar story. Many find it difficult to ask for help. “Hanging on Hope” wants to inspire these women. From the bracelets that spell out STRONG to the professional clothing, shoes and suits, Marzocca said she wants to honor their service to their country, as well as honor them as people.
“No veteran is going to walk out of here and feel homeless.”
Other students working on the project with Marzocca and Bolton were Darin Hand, Lynn Hovde, Teresa McDermott, Rachel Donnelly, Danielle Priest.
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