Homeless female veterans are closer to having a place to call home.
Lady Veterans Connect is transforming the former Clark County Trapp Elementary School into a home for female veterans and their children. The transformation of the building — which has 22,000 square feet — began late last year, and it has a while to go before it’s complete.
Phyllis Abbott, a co-founder of Lady Veterans Connect, is one of the volunteers behind the project. Abbott isn’t a veteran herself, but she has many relatives who are, and she knows there’s a lack of resources for female veterans.
“I’ve always been passionate about helping our veterans,” she said.
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Women veterans are three to four times more likely to be homeless than their civilian counterparts, according to a 2010 Project Muse study. After experiencing trauma, women are more than twice as likely to experience PTSD than men, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
The new home is in the small Clark County community of Trapp, about 10 miles southeast of Winchester. The building contains eight bedrooms that can accommodate as many as 35 people. Each bedroom has a television, beds, and filing cabinets for storage. Rooms can be arranged to accommodate a mother with kids or single veterans sharing a room.
There’s also an on-site clothing store, stocked through donations, and a room where veterans can buy toiletries or get a book to read.
Eventually, the building will have computer training and job interviewing classes, Abbott said. A garden is planned, and produce from it will help women veterans who wish to get a food handling license. There also will be a playroom and an on-site beauty salon.
Much of the furniture and clothes have been donated. Inspiring messages — “Make every moment count,” “Think big. Expect success. Be a star” — from when the building was a school remain on the walls.
“Everybody likes those,” Abbott said.
The gymnasium will be used as an event venue and will be rented out to generate some income. Abbott said former students of Trapp Elementary want to rent out the gym for a reunion, and someone spoke to her about hosting an indoor soccer class.
Before it can open, though, the building needs a new furnace, and showers need to be installed, among other things. Once the renovation is finished, the home can begin hosting women veterans within 90 days, Abbott said.
The organization is hosting a golf scramble June 3 at South Wind Golf Course in Winchester to raise money.
This is not the first Kentucky home exclusively for female veterans. Abbott also renovated a home for female veterans in Lexington. It opened last July.
Wanda Martin, a volunteer with Lady Veterans Connect, said numerous men in her family have served in the military, including her son. But she’s concerned about the fate of female veterans.
“You don’t see the females, but they are there. And the sad part is, often they are there with children,” she said.
Martin said the project is vitally important for Kentucky and Clark County.
“These people just wrote a blank check and said, ‘Take my life and I will protect this country,’ and that’s a large thing to do. We can’t thank them enough for what they have done for this country, and we want to give a little back.”
Toni Czajkowski, another volunteer, didn’t see conflict, but she served in the U.S. Navy under presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. A disabled veteran, Czajkowski said she’s benefiting from working on the home, just by knowing she’s helping other female veterans.
“It’s healing me,” she said.