First women’s forum held at veterans outreach campus

Jun. 27, 2013 @ 07:05 PM

Next Level Veterans Outreach Campus held its first forum for women veterans on Thursday at its building on Holloway Street in Durham. Multiple groups talked about services they offer to women.

Kandace Watkins, the community outreach educator for the Durham Crisis Response Center, said they offer free, confidential services to women and men who are victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. They have a 24-hour crisis line, 919-403-6562, and also offer hospital accompaniment for those who have been assaulted. The DCRC also provides court advocates and legal aids. As a nonprofit, need definitely outpaces capacity, Watkins said, so they also refer to community partners.

A Christian ministry that opened in Durham last year, Abundant Joy Center for Women’s Ministries, also shared information about their services of confidential support to women ages 18 and above who “are in a season of transition or crisis.”

Director Beth Benham said they are not professional counselors or a church, but offer to start fellow women on a path “to healing through Jesus Christ.” They’re currently training volunteers and looking for opportunities to serve, Benham said. Information is available at abundantjoycwm.com.

A woman in the audience asked if Abundant Joy Center also serves gay women, and Benham said that “it depends on if they are actively in a gay lifestyle or looking at other options.”

After the forum, Captain Newborn, executive director of Next Level Veterans Outreach Campus, said that Next Level – and Vets to Vets United, which shares space at the campus – serve all veterans, regardless of sexual orientation or anything else.

“We serve everyone. We don’t discriminate in any way,” Newborn said.

Watkins of the Crisis Response Center said the center serves the LGBT community as well.

Terry Morris, who leads Vets to Vets United, talked about her program, which pairs service dogs with veterans. Vets to Vets stands for Veterinarians to Veterans. Dogs rescued from kill shelters are trained and partnered with veterans who suffer from loneliness, depression or brain injuries.

“There’s something about the bond between an animal and human that is very healing – emotionally, mentally and also physically,” Morris said.

Jackie MacLeod, a metal artist with Liberty Arts Sculpture Studio & Foundry, told the women gathered about a fundraiser that resulted in money for arts classes for women and girls. Funding was raised by League of Upper Extremity Wrestling Women of Durham, an arm-wrestling group. Classes will be offered in welding, metal casting and glassblowing.

“We’re ready and looking for a group of girls or women to work with us,” MacLeod said. She may be reached at hello@jackiemacleod.com.

Next Level may schedule future women veterans forums. Morris said it’s time for women to start talking about things instead of holding stuff in. For information about Next Level Veterans Outreach, visit www.nextlevelvets.com or call 919-683-6398.