Organizations committed to supporting veterans of the U.S. military are some of the most meaningful and impactful. In the past, we’ve shared the stories of four service members rowing across the Atlantic and of Warrior Canine Connection, which makes the training of service dogs just as beneficial as the dogs themselves. The creativity and commitment shown by these groups are an inspiration.
We recently had the opportunity to speak with Melissa Washington, the founder, and CEO of Women Veterans Alliance. The organization’s mission is to connect women vets - as well as women on active duty or serving in the reserves - with each other and the resources they need.
Melissa is a veteran, having served for 3 years in the United States Navy. Following her time in the Navy, she worked with a number of companies, primarily as a recruiter and motivator. She was constantly looking for ways to find and network with other women veterans. The legacy veterans’ groups weren’t meeting her needs.
Instead, she began organizing monthly meetups in the Sacramento area. There was dinner and a speaker - and the group kept growing. Why? Because many women veterans were feeling that same need for connections.
Women Veterans Alliance is now a national organization helping connect people with resources across the country. “Our goal is to expand our awareness - not just among women vets, but also to get the support of the 93 percent of Americans who haven’t served.”
Since its founding, the Alliance has engaged tens of thousands of people through in-person and online events, social media channels, newsletters and email blasts, the media, the Women Veterans in Business podcast, and its own publication, Women Veterans Magazine. One of the tools Melissa is most proud of is the directory of women veteran-owned businesses, the only one of its kind.
The goal is to help create networking and support opportunities for this growing group of service members. As Melissa explained, women veterans are a fast-growing group that is younger than their male counterparts. For male veterans, the average age is 65 years, while for women veterans, it is only 51.
Not only is this group younger, but it is also very diverse. “People of color, LGBTQ individuals, rural and urban, women veterans are a reflection of America,” explained Melissa. One big issue facing this group is the challenge of reaching veterans in rural communities.
Partnerships, in general, are an important part of the Women Veterans Alliance's work. The Women Veterans Alliance looks for ways to collaborate with groups like the VFW, American Legion, and other women's veteran organizations. “Sometimes, you have to invite yourself to the table,” Melissa said. “It’s not always easy, but it’s almost always worth the effort.”
Part of what makes the effort important is the need to create a stronger identity for women veterans. “We need to be a part of the narrative,” said Melissa, “and don’t need someone else telling our story.”
That story has resonated with people, as evidenced by the support Women Veterans Alliance receives. This has included the annual Red, White, and Blue Fun Run and the popular Boots and Ball Gowns gala.
The Fun Run, held in Orangeville, California, has continued to attract more and more participants each year. It has gotten to the point that the event has been expanded and incorporated into a larger set of festivities planned for June of 2023.
“Next June is going to be a big deal for women veterans everywhere,” she told us. “It will be the 75th anniversary of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, which made it possible for women to serve as full members of all branches of the Armed Forces.”
To celebrate this milestone, the Women Veterans Alliance will not only be holding the Red, White, and Blue Fun Run, but also a revitalized version of Boots and Ball Gowns (which, just as the name implies, invites participants to don their fanciest cocktail gowns, along with their combat boots).
That will make June 12th a real red-letter day in Orangeville. Not only will there be the race and gala, but the city will be holding a parade with a carnival and fair. It will bring together people from far and wide to join together to recognize the important place of women veterans in the community.
Each of these events also serves as an opportunity for people to support the Alliance and its mission. This is an area where DipJar has been proud to partner.
A “wine pull” has been part of Boots and Ball Gowns in the past and will be again. For a $25 dollar “dip,” people can pull one of the plain brown paper-wrapped wine bottles to take home. They could end up with a gem or a dud. This was a new and novel use of the DipJar, and we were excited to hear about it.
That wasn’t the only creative use Melissa described to us. “At our Small Business Awards event,” she said, “we had some neat branded shot glasses. We decided we could use the DipJar to sell them for a $10 dip. Our team fanned out after the awards and did a brisk business!”
If people are unsure of how to use the DipJar, they quickly get the hang of it when they see others grouping around to give. Wherever they show up, they attract attention. Melissa described bringing “her” to a military influencers conference in Las Vegas.
“First,” she explained, “the mobility of the device makes it easy to use it wherever we go. And once we start using it, people want to know more. Other nonprofits at the Vegas event were so curious and enthusiastic about the device and how we were using it.”
We love it when a customer’s enthusiasm comes shining through, and that was certainly the case in our conversation with Melissa. The Women Veterans Alliance is a proud and impactful organization, and we are so glad they are finding success with DipJar!
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