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Top charity award winner helps homeless female vets

Sep. 10, 2013 - 05:14PM   |  
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More homeless women veterans will find suitable housing if the top award winner in the 2013 Newman’s Own Awards competition has anything to say about it.

Jas Boothe, an Army veteran and founder of the charity Final Salute, will use her $25,000 prize to help operate three homes for her organization’s Women Vets Transitional Living Program. The homes, in Fairfax and Alexandria, Va., and Columbus, Ohio, cost about $5,000 a month to maintain, she said.

Eight organizations received a combined total of $100,000 in this year’s competition, out of 303 entries. In its 14 year-history, the Newman’s Own Awards program has recognized 153 programs with a total of $925,000 for programs to improve military life, said David Coker, president of the Fisher House Foundation, which co-sponsors the competition along with Military Times and Newman’s Own.

Founded by the late actor and philanthropist Paul Newman, the philanthropic arm of Newman’s Own’s provides the funding for the awards.

“No veteran should be homeless, but women are now the fastest growing homeless population, and most are single mothers,” Boothe said in a ceremony at the Pentagon.

She noted that Final Salute is just one organization. “America, we can do better. ... We all need to get involved. These women have earned it.”

Boothe was homeless for a while after she and her son, then 11, lost their home to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when she was a reservist. Soon after, she was diagnosed with cancer. She still battles health problems, but is determined to provide transitional housing for female veterans while also juggling a full-time job. Like others involved in Final Salute, she volunteers her time.

She said Americans generally don’t realize that some female veterans “just need to get over a hump — they may have just gotten a divorce, or just lost a job,” and need some extra help.

But often, other help is not available “until they hit rock bottom,” she said. “As a soldier, I took an oath to never leave a fallen comrade. We remember those who have fallen on the battlefield, but often forget those who have fallen on hard times.”

Since opening its first transitional home in 2011, the organization has helped 125 female veterans with various programs.

Boothe said she is concerned that the needs of female veterans will increase, especially with the drawdown.

Adm. James Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said the future success of veterans and their families “depends on large measure on the support of our communities across the country.”

“Long after today’s wars have faded into a distant memory, we still will have many service members and their families who are going to need our support and the support of our entire country,” he said. “That support is what these awards are all about, providing support not just for the near term but for the long term ... not just providing a basic cookie-cutter approach but unique and innovative ways to empower individuals to excel in their lives.”

The Military Times is “committed to keeping a spotlight on the known and yet unknown long-term effects of war and conflict, and thereby helping all of you build support, volunteerism and awareness,” said Peter Lundquist, vice president and acting general manager of Military Times.

Lundquist thanked the organizations for their accomplishments on behalf of Military Times and its employees. “You’re committed to helping the military community, whether that’s to find a home, start a business, cope with injury or loss and ultimately, to lead healthy and happy lives.

“If you think about it, that’s what our armed forces do for all Americans through their service.”

Other groups receiving awards:

■ The Jonas Project of Laguna Woods, Calif, received $15,000 to help veteran entrepreneurs with a variety of needs, such as free legal services. The charity was founded by John and Keri Kelsall, who lost their son, Lt. Cmdr. Jonas B. Kelsall, a Navy SEAL, on Aug. 6, 2011. John Kelsall said they hope to also help veteran entrepreneurs with no-interest loans.

■ Yellow Ribbon Fund, of Bethesda, Md., received $10,000 for Caregiver Retreats, two three-day retreats for caregivers of injured service members.

■ Lines for Life, of Portland, Ore., received $10,000 for its Military Helpline — Texting Service, a 24-hour help line for veterans and service members struggling with physical, mental and emotional wounds.

■ Purple Heart Homes Inc., of Statesville, N.C. received $10,000 for its Veterans Aging in Place program for service-connected disabled veterans of all generations whose homes don’t meet their physical needs. The organization, founded by two combat-wounded Iraq veterans — retired Staff Sgt. Dale Beatty and former Spc. John Gallina — assesses the homes and determines the final scope and budget to restore both dignity and quality of life, at no cost to the veteran.

■ Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, of Arlington, Va., received $10,000 for its regional Military Survivor Seminars and Good Grief Camps for children, for survivors of those grieving the death of someone serving in the military.

■ Jill’s House, of Vienna, Va., received $10,000 for its respite care for military families and children with intellectual disabilities.

■ Blue Star Families, Inc., of Falls Church, Va., received $10,000 for its Blue Star Jobs programs designed to increase economic and professional opportunities for military families through online work.

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