Oct 12, 2011

Female veterans will get Veterans Day boost from Women Helping Women

Women who have served admirably in the defense of the United States sometimes stumble into combat of a different kind in adjusting to life after the military. Many find themselves without a roof over their heads or the hope of ever having one again.

It is to these heroes that Volunteers of America of Illinois reaches out, providing avenues to stability and self-sufficiency. Women Helping Women, an after-hours networking group integrating business development with philanthropy, will salute the work of VOA at a Veterans Day Mix-and-Mingle on Thursday, Nov. 10, at Lloyd’s Chicago.

WHW Mix-and-Mingles are biannual wine and hors d’oeuvres gatherings hosted by the women attorneys at Chuhak & Tecson, P.C.—and the upcoming function, which also will feature a special Veterans Day cocktail, is a red-white-and-blue tribute to the women who have nobly served. Mix-and-Mingles offer women entrepreneurs, decision makers and potential strategic partners the opportunity to streamline their schedules by networking, developing business and working for charity, all at the same event.

Although each mixer benefits a different nonprofit organization, service projects that target women are always the focus. For the Nov. 10 event, attendees are asked to stock VOA’s Dress for Success Closet by donating items to help women veterans dress for job interviews.

Eileen Sethna, a Chuhak & Tecson principal who will give opening remarks at the event, said she is thrilled that WHW is partnering with Volunteers of America, a national organization with outreaches to the most vulnerable sectors of society.

“Their mission is exemplary,” Sethna said. “Their commitment is to do everything they can to provide hope, healing and support to people in need. They are determined not only to make a difference, but to also be a part of the solution, which I think complements and models our firm’s practices.”

Programs to assist veterans in crisis represent just one arm of VOA’s Illinois affiliate, said Michelle Comer, vice president of external relations for the local office. Other priorities include foster care for children and housing for low-income seniors.

VOA of Illinois helps veterans with job readiness classes, life skills training, peer support, and housing and employment referrals. Financial assistance is available for utility bills and other basics to help keep veteran families in their homes, Comer said.

“This is especially important to our female veterans,” she said. “They’re four times more likely to be homeless than non-veteran females, and usually they have their children with them. All of the services that we’re providing really do make a difference.”

Sethna said she finds it disheartening to know that on any given night in Chicago, 1,000 veterans are homeless and that 90 percent of homeless veterans were honorably discharged from the service. Nationwide, about five percent of that population will be women.

“Those numbers are staggering,” Sethna said. “We support the mission of VOA to help our female veterans receive the support they both need and deserve in their return to the workforce with job training and resources. Our event is a small, but we hope significant, effort to assist VOA in its mission. We are inviting our attendees to donate new or gently worn business attire, jewelry, shoes and other accessories to help outfit our women veterans for the workplace.”

Gift cards from department stores, Target and Walmart also are welcome, along with merchandise or gift cards from stores such as Bath & Body Works.

“We have a counselor who works with the female veterans, and she said a lot of times they just want to feel pretty again,” Comer said. “That’s why we’re asking for Bath & Body Works cards.”

The mixer will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. at Lloyd's Chicago, 1 S. Wacker Dr. If you would like to receive an invitation, please contact Katie Walsh at (312) 201-3447 or

In a time when the sacrifices of military personnel are often forgotten or underappreciated, Veterans Day offers the opportunity for a grateful nation to remember.

“These,” said Comer, “are the people behind the holiday.”