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Dallas Morning News Article May 2011

Nonprofit group meets needs of female veterans, growing demographic

By ANN MARIE SHAMBAUGH

Staff Writer

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Published 29 May 2011 11:03 PM

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RICHARDSON — It’s been more than 15 years since Kimberly Allen of Dallas completed her service with the Navy, but she is often haunted by memories from Desert Storm.

Allen still doesn’t like talking about her past, but for the first time since she joined the military she’s found a network of veterans and volunteers who understand her problems in Grace After Fire, the only nonprofit in Texas that focuses on the needs of female veterans.

“I’ve been through some things I’ve kept repressed for so long,” Allen said. “[Grace After Fire] made it easy for me to talk with someone and come out of my shell.”

Grace After Fire offers online resources and support groups across Texas for female veterans, who make up about 8 percent of the U.S. veteran population, according to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics. That number is expected to double by 2035.

Most of the nonprofit’s 10 staff members are female veterans, including outreach coordinator Stacy Keyte of Waxahachie, who served in the Army for 12 years. She reaches out to veterans in seven counties, including Dallas, Collin and Rockwall  , to identify their needs and find ways for Grace After Fire to help address them. She coordinates peer support groups in Far North Dallas and Waxahachie.

Keyte said childcare is one of the biggest issues women veterans face when they return home.

“You immediately get your child back, and you never really get any time to readjust,” she said. “[You go from] being the primary caregiver to trying to transition into that soldier mentality and then straight back into being that nurturing, loving mother. It can be a very big stressor.”

She also said many female veterans seek help with childcare as they attempt to find a new job or go to school. Grace After Fire’s online database also provides information for dealing with domestic violence, substance abuse, sexual assault, depression and other issues.

The nonprofit’s outreach coordinators serve 74 counties in Texas, but the website has been used by military personnel and veterans across the world.

Allen said she’s not ready to move beyond one-on-one counseling yet, but Grace After Fire has helped her take the first steps toward recovery.

“Grace After Fire has something for every female veteran,” she said. “They can head you in the direction you need to go for healing.”