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Jackie Keeton may be a victim of Military Sexual Trauma (MST), but her perseverance has made her a survivor. She is a survivor of substance abuse, the only coping strategy that blocked out the nightmare she experienced while serving in the United States Navy. She is a survivor of domestic abuse, which she was able to escape after finding refuge at a homeless shelter. She survived losing her cleaning business as a result of standing up to sexual harassment. These hardships caused Jackie so much pain and agony that she attempted to take her own life. Jackie is also a veteran suicide survivor.

After voluntarily seeking treatment, Jackie was finally able to get the help she needed to talk about her trauma. Feeling healed and determined to have a successful career again, she quickly worked her way from a Medical Support Assistant to the distinguished honor of becoming the first black female supervisor in the housekeeping department at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System.

Flash forward to today, Jackie is now Secretary to the Regional Director at the National Labor Relations Board, a highly desired position that is internally known for taking a minimum of 10 years to achieve. Jackie was not only asked to apply, but she was offered the position after three months of her start date. She is already preparing for her next promotion by training to become the next Office Manager.

It’s evident that Jackie Keeton is a hard worker. Just as she was feeling confident about her future, she saw a drastic change in her work hours, forcing her to put her youngest of three children in a daycare and afterschool program. The unexpected costs were detrimental to her finances, causing a crisis situation. In the following paragraphs, Jackie explains how her frantic search for help led her to Veterans Leadership Program.

“The new expense of the cost of the daycare set me back financially and forced me to have to rob Peter to pay Paul in order to pay my bills. One bill in particular, the gas, was disconnected because I had no money to pay it. After missing two payments, I was told that I had to pay my entire past due balance of $3,900 before my gas could be restored. I calculated it and realized it would take me three months to pay it off and during that time, I would not have been able to pay any other bills. This clearly wasn’t an option.

After contacting the referrals I received from the 2-1-1 Veterans Crisis Line, no one was able to assist me. Finally, one of the numbers I called told me about the Veterans Leadership Program. I called the Veterans Leadership Program out of desperation as my children and I were living without gas in my home for over two weeks. I spoke with a gentleman named Ken. Ken set up an appointment with me for the very next day. I went into the appointment not knowing what to expect. Up to that point, I had been turned away from every agency I spoke with to get assistance with turning my gas back on. I felt like I was at the end of my rope. When I spoke with Ken on the phone, I was almost in tears out of frustration. I felt my mind and my body was about to shut down. Once I arrived at my appointment and met with Ken and few other individuals, Ken called the gas company to explain the situation and was able to negotiate an arrangement. Veterans Leadership Program granted me money to pay a large portion of my bill in order for the gas company to restore my services! Needless to say, I was almost speechless. Had it not been for the Veterans Leadership Program and individuals like Ken, I would still be without gas, and probably other utilities. I am forever grateful to this organization for going above and beyond.”

Veterans Leadership Program has many streams of funding, which can assist different individuals with different situations. In this particular case, Ken Haynes, VLP’s Supportive Services Supervisor, was able to provide relief to Jackie through our homeless prevention programs. For Veterans with children under the age of 18, Allegheny County’s Children, Youth and Families (CYF) grant provides financial relief to stabilize family homes. United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania United for Women’s grant provides funds to women overcoming an immediate financial crisis. Because VLP is a grantee of both of these programs, we were able to assist Jackie with her situation.

Jackie is taking this experience as an opportunity to learn from her mistake and make immediate changes. She has made it a goal to become more disciplined in budgeting and saving money, starting with creating a savings account strictly for emergencies. Taking a look back at her track record, we think Jackie will not only accomplish this goal, she will exceed it. Once a survivor, always a survivor.