HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Tangi Smith has seen them firsthand, the women, oftentimes with children, who are having a difficult time and who are experiencing what Smith describes as that “just kind of life hits you” circumstance.
She recalls finding one woman using the free laundry room at Fort Campbell even though she didn’t live in the barracks on post, a requirement for using that facility.
“This soldier had so many things to be worried about,” noted Smith, an Army veteran whose new program, Women Elevated, offers assistance primarily to military women.
“Clothes and laundry shouldn’t be one of them.”
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A grand opening and ribbon cutting for the facility housing the new program is slated for 11 a.m. Jan. 12 at 3404 Bradfield Drive in Clarksville, Tennessee. The program will serve both current and former military women, and it will provide services initially in Hopkinsville as well as in Clarksville, according to Smith.
She noted that plans include a second facility in Hopkinsville within another three years and additional facilities in St. Louis; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Petersburg, Virginia; Columbus, Georgia; and Houston.
Women Elevated is a nonprofit organization whose services will include hot meals, laundry facilities, temporary housing, job placement and classes in resume-building and credit-score building. Additionally, two professional counselors, a medical doctor and a psychologist are volunteering with the facility.
The program will also serve as a link to other resources in the area.
Smith said the idea is to prevent crisis, i.e., homelessness and job loss, from occurring in the women’s lives.
“We saw a need for this,” she said, explaining that women are taught pride in the military and have a difficult time letting go of that pride when they find themselves in situations where they need help.
“A lot of women won’t ask for help,” she continued. “They feel like it’s a handout, and they don’t want a handout.”
Smith notes that her program’s services are for middle-class clients, for those women who are struggling but who aren’t already receiving assistance. The Clarksville facility has accommodations where as many as eight women can stay for as long as five days if needed, and its two classrooms can seat up to 10 students at a time.
The new program will also serve some men, although Smith said her organization’s board of directors will make decisions on serving any male clientele with a unanimous vote of its members.
Additionally, information on the group’s website notes that civilian women will be among the clientele, depending on available resources. While the primary focus of Women Elevated is on women who are military veterans, the site notes that everyone is welcome to the food, coats and educational classes.
The program is housed in a renovated home, and Smith has plans to establish up to five additional facilities by 2020 in cities across the country. She notes that Fort Campbell offers similar services to veterans, but she says soldiers can lose the opportunity to make use of those services, especially if they’re leaving under unfavorable circumstances and don’t pay attention to classes explaining those services before they leave.
A resident of Clarksville, Smith is a military veteran and retired in May after serving almost 21 years in the Army. She was stationed at Fort Campbell three times, her last stint beginning in June of 2015.
Smith notes that she is supporting her program right now solely through donations and will continue to accept monetary donations to help establish subsequent facilities in surrounding areas.
She also suggests in-kind donations of items like cleaning supplies, detergents and other things that can be used by the organization’s clients. Smith said her organization already is serving two or three women per week even though it has yet to officially get off the ground.
In the future, Smith hopes to acquire grants to support Women Elevated.
She says she is inviting the mayors of both Clarksville and neighboring Montgomery County, Tennessee, as well as Hopkinsville Mayor Carter Hendricks, to attend the upcoming grand opening/ribbon cutting and hopes to invite Bea Burt, the mayor of Oak Grove, since those communities will be the ones served by her program.
For more information about Smith’s Women Elevated organization, call her at 931-302-6310 or public relations representative Audrey Austin at 931-216-3324 or visit www.womenelevated.org .
Information from: Kentucky New Era, http://www.kentuckynewera.com