In my hometown of Roanoke, Virginia, population of 305,000, there is a charming 1927 structure that until very recently served as the local YWCA. It has 28 residential apartments, 11 offices, three kitchens, a lap pool, gym and a grand old hotel style lobby. Here are a couple newspaper clippings with additional background and photos.
"This is not just a homeless shelter or transitional center," she said. "This place builds self-esteem. The ladies love it here. We've built relationships with each other. A lot of ladies don't have anybody else, but they've built lasting relationships with other women".
The YWCA Roanoke Valley operates on a $261,668 annual budget, much of which is spent on heating, cooling and maintaining the huge building. Virtually no improvements have been made since the building opened, Woodson said.
The YWCA of Roanoke Valley's budget is cobbled together mostly from grants, government funding, donations and money from the United Way. Included in its funding are a $39,000 State Shelter Grant from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development and nearly $21,000 from a federal Emergency Shelter Grant.
Most pools have a temperature of about 82 degrees, McGuire said, but the YW pool is heated to 86 degrees.My idea is to provide a safe and secure place for women vets to live with recreation, social worker and therapists (the 11 offices), ect under the same roof.
"It's considered a therapy pool," she said.
The water is warm and soothing for elderly and disabled who use the pool for therapeutic purposes.
The temperature also prevents elementary students from shivering when they climb in.
"This is fabulous," American Red Cross instructor Karol Lurch said Monday after teaching second-graders from Fairview and Fallon Park. "It's a great teaching pool. They can get their feet on the bottom." Kitts and Kesler participated in water exercise classes before the pool shut down in 2006. Kesler said she has swum there for 15 years. The women, who looked much younger than their ages, were proof that staying active yields benefits in the later years.
I spoke with the folks at my local Vet Center this morning about my idea. They thought that it was a great idea and confirmed that there would be federal grant funds available, however the women veterans numbers in our immediate area would not support that large of a venture. I later visited the nearby Salem VA hospital, one of the largest VA hospital complexes in the country, but was not able to speak with any of the staff due to their workload.
More below the fold.
Way back in 1968 my mom worked part time at the YWCA for a little extra pay. She served as a front desk clerk and switchboard operator. It was handy for her because it was only a block from her regular job as switchboard operator for Ma Bell. When I came home on leave from my first tour in Vietnam I walked into the lobby to surprise her and was struck by the grandeur of the lobby and reception area. Marble and brass highlighted by highly polished floors and afternoon light from a stained glass window. That's all of the building I was able to see but it was absolutely stunning. It'd be a very fitting tribute to honor and acknowledge the service of the brave young women who've stepped forward to serve our beautiful country.
So that's where I am for the moment. There is a marvelous facility in a beautiful location with nearby community colleges, medical training facilities and other higher education as well as a tremendous VA hospital close at hand. Is there a large enough women veterans population to justify this endeavor? Being that federal funds would be utilized for the most part would there be a limitation on the geographical area served?
That's why I'm writing you this afternoon. For your expertise, advice and suggestions. I've no experience in grant writing nor do I have personal funds to kick start the endeavor. I'm down to the bottom of my barrel right now and next month isn't looking very sunny but that's beside the point.
I think this would be a wonderful opportunity and could well serve as a model of treatment and sanctuary for women veterans needing a place of their own away from some of the triggers to their problems to begin with. Many of the women who serve in the military report incidents of sexual abuse and assault. It's understandable that those young women would be reluctant to seek help in an environment that is predominately male as the entire VA system is.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I look forward to your comments.