SIERRA VISTA — Looks can be deceiving, as Julia Henry, a volunteer for Women Warriors, has noticed. She would know. It’s her job to connect women veterans with any services they might need. It’s not always easy, and it can be very emotional.
“It’s very scary (to reach out),” Henry said. “I can have the strongest person sitting there. They’re all dressed to the nines. They look great until I get a little moment with them, and then they break it open.”
That opening up usually includes lots of tears so Henry keeps tissue boxes within easy reach for her veterans.
Women Warriors, as the name implies, is an organization for women veterans, and the office is housed in the Warrior Healing Center at 1838 Paseo San Luis. The goal is to give aid where needed and to provide the resources women veterans might need at a hard time in their lives. To that end, Henry, who served as a medic in the U.S. Air Force, has her finger on the pulse of area organizations and services that can help in an emergency.
What constitutes a veteran emergency?
“Homelessness, food needs, other areas that don’t get focused on as much as they need to, like any mental (health) concerns, basically, any unworthiness,” Henry said.
The process for getting help is not hard. You call Henry, and she invites you for a chat, and it truly is just that: a chat.
“The first thing that happens is I ask them if they would like a handshake, an elbow or a hug. I give that to them,” Henry said. “I thank them for their service in a very real way, not the standard, ‘Thank you for your service.’ It means a lot to me that they stood up and did that. All the women that paved the path before me, I always thank them above and beyond because they went through what I didn’t (have to).”
Then Henry spends all the time it takes to get to know each person she is sitting with in her office or is with her on the phone. She recognizes that it can be very difficult for veterans — men and women both — to ask for help. They were trained to be self-sufficient, so the process of getting to the issue can take time, sometimes not until the second or third visit. All the while, Henry is trying to determine the root cause of the issue. She is very careful to insure all her veterans understand that what is said is confidential.
“You’ll see me on my computer, but what I’m doing stays for me,” she said. “The only thing I put is: she needs housing, she needs to get food. Those are the only things I put so that I can get organizations involved. I make that very clear to them. Their confidentiality is paramount and foremost.”
Henry makes a point to also ask about safety.
“I deal with immediate needs,” Henry said. “I ask them if they have a roof over their head, if they have food and shelter, if they have any problems that I need to know about that they are in distress with.”
After that, Henry listens and listens hard so she can determine the real needs and how Women Warriors can help. It is up to the veteran herself to reach out to the people at the resources Henry provides. If the veteran does not feel she can do that just yet, Henry continues the visits until she can reach out.
Women Warriors is the brainchild of Karen Kuciver of Tucson. It began small.
“Women Warriors started out in 2016 as just a small resource for helping out female veterans,” Kuciver said “I got it all together. I had a couple of resources from the VA. I went out and got some donations from the community — hygiene, purses, clothing ... We were able to help one female veteran with two small children who had just got out of homelessness and into an apartment. We were able to furnish her entire house, get them some clothing, Christmas gifts, Christmas tree, you name it. Even Santa Claus was there to pass out the gifts...I still keep in contact with that family. They’re doing well.”
The organization grew and in 2018 became a 501©(3), which means it’s non-profit. Because of that, Kuciver was able to ask for monetary donations for emergency financial situations. That might include car repairs, utility and phone bills, rent, mortgage, whatever is needed.
“(The women) just have to come ask, come talk to me,” Kuciver said. “I’ll be able to help either financially or with resources or with camaraderie.”
The organization has been so successful Kuciver was able to open Wendy’s Collection Boutique, a shop that sells new and gently used goods and clothing to fund all its programs, including the office that Henry mans in Sierra Vista.
Still, Kuciver said the funds have been hard hit and donations are needed.
“The emergency financial assistance fund is very depleted at this point, because there’s been a lot of hardships due not just to COVID but other things that happen in life,” Kuciver said.
Support for veterans, however, goes beyond donations.
“First of all, be aware that there are female veterans in need,” Kuciver said. “There are a lot of them that are in need of emotional support and to be heard.”
There’s the other donation stuff, too.
“Donate housewares,” Kuciver said. “We could really use paper products and cleaning supplies because that’s expensive stuff as well. What would you need if you were moving out of homelessness into housing?”
Henry said what she would like to receive in her office is something a bit more unusual but nonetheless needed: good quality haircare products and body soap.
“Funds never hurt,” Henry said, “but it would just be really lovely to donate pedicures with a paraffin wax. We would have a day, and we would converge on that spa. That would be amazing.”
To donate, call Julia Henry at Women Warriors, 520-508-0532.