Photo by Charity Maness/Fall River County Herald Star
Zonta Club of the Southern Black Hills event guest speaker Retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, Jennifer A. Rollins poses with Zonta Secretary Ebun Adelona.
By Charity Maness
HOT SPRINGS – Zonta Club of the Southern Black Hills held a fundraiser Saturday, Jan. 27, at the Hot Springs American Legion for the Final Salute Organization that supports homeless women veterans by providing them safe and suitable housing.
“As an organization, we support groups who support women,” said Ebun Adelona, Zonta Club Southern Black Hills Secretary. And Final Salute fits well with Zonta’s mission to ‘build a better world for women and girls.’
Attendees came from around the Black Hills to the event.
“I am a veteran myself,” said Maryann Reed of Rapid City. “This is a great cause and I wanted to come to support this cause.”
American Legion Box Elder Post 315 Auxiliary Secretary Joy Cox also attended the event.
“I came to show my support for not only Jennifer (guest speaker) but also the cause.”
After bit of Cajun music provided by Gumbo Lily, Adelona took to the microphone and welcomed those in attendance.
“Every January we honor Amelia Earhart, a Zonta member herself, and in honoring her we chose our guest speaker, a veteran and a pilot and 2023 2nd runner up Ms. Veteran America, an organization that supports Final Salute,” said Adelona.
A short biography was shared of Earhart and attendees were then invited to partake of a selection of soups prepared by the American Legion Post 71 Auxiliary.
With stomachs filled with homemade goodness, guest speaker retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, Jennifer A. Rollins took the stage to advocate for Finale Salute.
“This has been my journey,” said Rollins of her mission and that of the 2023 Ms Veteran America court, “We, the court, are all ambassadors of Finale Salute.”
Final Salute uses awareness, assistance and aspiration when addressing the needs of homeless women veterans: bringing the need of homeless women veterans to the public; provide support services and homeless prevention; stressing their situation is temporary and their goals are still achievable.
Finale Salute began in 2010 and has helped more than 8,000 women veterans with more than 17,000 housing days provided.
Support of the organization is personal for Rollins.
“I connect the vulnerability that homelessness leads to,” she said, “that of exploitation.”
With 10 deployments around the world under her belt – where Rollins has served as B-1 Weapon Systems Officer, Navy EA-6B Electronic Warfare Officer, and U.S. Senior Defense Official/Defense Attaché – she has seen abject poverty and the human fallout this can cause: human trafficking.
“I try to raise awareness to the homeless issue,” said Rollins, “often someone is one paycheck, one decision away from homelessness. I want to reach out with more volunteer work to educate about resources available.”
According to statistics gathered by Final Salute, of the 47,000 veterans reported homeless, 4,338 are women with 70% of those women being single mothers. Additionally, of the 495,000 veterans reported unemployed, 23,000 are women.
Rollins pointed out that those numbers are only collected from agencies required to report and with more than 80% of women veterans not accessing VA healthcare, that leaves a large population not counted and potentially underserved – just one more reason Rollins continues advocacy for homeless women veterans and those in danger of becoming homeless.
“This position has brought me personal growth, being active in serving to an elevated to a whole new level,” she said, “advocating for those who live in the shadows to shine a light through grace, poise, beauty and service.”
For more information on Final Salute visit finalsaluteinc.org or call 703-224-8845.