Kentucky’s first home for women Veterans opened its doors in Lexington on July 1 in hopes of providing women Veterans with the support they need in a safe and productive environment.
The Thurman-Abbott Home for Lady Veterans will operate as part of a 12-month program designed to aid women Veterans in need of support and independence. Four spaces will be available to homeless women Veterans in various combinations that may include the Veterans and their children. The women Veterans who are accepted to live in the home have access to mental health services, financial literacy classes, and internship and job placement programs.
“Within these walls, healing will take place,” said co-founder Sherry Whitehouse, who served nine years in the Army.
The Lady Veterans home was founded out of collaboration between Reverend Jim Thurman, Phyllis Abbott, founder of Sheppard’s Hands and Whitehouse, who also created Lady Vets Connect. Together, Abbott and Whitehouse combined those two groups and created Lady Veterans Hands for Hope following a chance meeting at a baseball game. The two were seated at neighboring booths for their respective organizations.
“It was like yin and yang; we were both passionate about helping lady Veterans,” said Whitehouse. “I had been building a dream of mine to help Veteran women connect to resources… our connection was instantaneous. We threw our passions together and things started happening.”
Thurman and Abbott hope that this home is the first of many to be built in their state. They’ve built Lady Veteran Hands for Hope on three pillars: resources, connections and transitions. They hope these pillars will help them expand the impact of their organization in the next five years as Kentucky is home to 24,000 women Veterans and that number is expected to double by 2021. The pending expansion would be with the potential purchase of a 22,000 square foot former elementary school in Winchester, which they plan to model into a one-stop-shop facility for women Veterans in the area.
Whitehouse said she and Abbott were overwhelmed by the support they have received from their community throughout their journey in opening the home.
“The ultimate cure for ourselves is through the service of another,” she said. “Healing took place during the renovation and creation of the Thurman-Abbott Home; people shared stories of war and struggle in a safe place around other veterans where they were understood.”