Once a victim, but always a survivor

Posted by on Oct 11, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

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...

Read More

Hiking in the Crucible? Check out this top-ten list on what to pack!

Posted by on Aug 29, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Top 10 Things to Carry With You What you pack in with you can mean the difference from a successful journey and a bad day. Even though the crucible hike is a fully supported hike, you will still have to go hours between checkpoints so packing properly is vital. Below is a list of supplies that are easily carried and can be indispensable on the trail: 1) A good pair of wool socks / clothing Wool is a fantastic material, it’s natural fiber properties suit you well on the trail. The hollow fibers wick moisture away from the skin allowing evaporation and aiding in cooling. The fabric dries very quickly as well unlike cotton that can stay damp for hours and cause you to lose too much heat and cause skin irritation on your feet. Wool fabric doesn’t retain odor, which after 3 days of hiking is appreciated. A thicker knit also aide in friction reduction so blisters are less likely to form. A light weigh rain jacket may be appropriate if storms are in the forecast to help keep you dry. 2) A supportive pair of boots A good pair of hiking boots is going to keep you going. The stiff sole will help your stride be more efficient and help carry the extra weight from you pack. The grippe soles will help keep traction on the rugged terrain preventing slips and possible fall injuries. The high top boot will provide protection from brush and rocks as well as add support to your ankles. 3) Sandal/plastic camp shoe As important as a good boot is a light weight airy shoe for the camp site. This allows your shoes and more importantly your feet to dry out while you get dinner and set up camp. 4) Bandana / camp towel This is one of the most utilitarian items in my bag. It can be used as a hat to keep sweat out of your eyes. Wet it and put it around your neck and it can be used as a towel to help cool you off. Roll it up and it’s a bandage. Cover your water bottle opening with it and it’s a coarse filter prior to treating your water with iodine tablets. 5) Bug spray Bugs are not only annoying, they can also spread diseases like Lyme and rocky mountain spotted fever. Think about saving space and get sun block with bug repellant in with it. 6) Multi tool MacGyver could get out of any situation with his trusty Swiss Army knife a roll of string and a paper clip. While there was a lot of creative licensure taken with the plot lines of this show, the fact...

Read More

Are You Hiking in the Crucible? Here are some important tips on proper hydration.

Posted by on Aug 25, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

The Crucible Hike Hydration Tips • • • Hydration is one of the most important aspects of activity. It should be considered before, during and after an event. Included in this tip sheet are some guidelines to consider and to follow before hitting the trails. If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. It is a well-known fact, however many athletes fail to recognize it. Also, all athletes and participants sweat at their own unique rate. The weather and temperature can affect the bodies sweat rate. Please adjust hydration strategies for each day accordingly. For every 1 pound of weight lost – drink 20-24 oz of water. For every 2 pounds of weight lost – drink 40-48 oz of water. Muscle Cramping • • • Muscle cramps can occur in the body when there is an imbalance of water volume to electrolytes. Sports drinks are popularly utilized to restore this balance. However salty snacks or salt packets can be used for a quick fix. It is crucial to eat a well-balanced meal in order to restore the nutrients lost during activity. Hydration and nutrition work hand in hand to prevent muscle cramps. Granola bars, protein bars, and trail mix are just a few examples of a snack that can help restore the salt lost during activity. Also electrolyte supplements can be added to drinks consumed during activity. Please have a snack or back-up plan incase muscle cramps occur. The easiest way to see if you are hydrated is by urine color. If it appears to be a pale or a lemonade color, you are properly hydrated. Dark urine, like apple juice, indicates that you need to drink more fluids. Please consider how your body will react to the activity you will embark on. Pack plenty of water and sports drinks to refuel. And always remember to rehydrate at night for the fluid that was not replaced during the day. Philip Hensler, MS, ATC, LAT. PES, EMT-B UPMC Sports...

Read More

A Return to our Roots: Animal Friends’ Pets for Vets Pittsburgh Chapter

Posted by on Jun 13, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Dear Friend, As I watch the bulldozers and back hoes busily transform our campus, pointing the way to our future with the construction of The Howard Ash Animal Wellness Center, I find myself reflecting on our past and remembering what was at the very heart of our founding – supporting our veterans and their beloved pets. That’s why I’m so proud to announce that we have established a new chapter of the nationally recognized Pet for Vets Program right here at Animal Friends. Animal Friends and Pets for Vets is truly a symbiotic partnership. Both organizations understand the power of the human-animal bond and the everyday miracles that happen when people and pets are together. The Pets for Vets Program works to help to heal the emotional wounds of military veterans living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) by pairing them with a shelter animal that is specially matched to the veteran based on personality and lifestyle. Once the perfect pet is selected for the veteran, the animal then spends time in the home of a Pets for Vets trainer to learn basic commands and other valuable behaviors to ensure a successful match. This may include acclimating the animal to wheelchairs and teaching the necessary behaviors to help ease the symptoms of PTSD and TBI. Additionally, an individually designed welcome package of essential supplies from leashes and collars to beds (and even a free dog license for canine adopters) are sent home to support this new relationship! Pets for Vets Pittsburgh is actively being developed and you may be able to help. Currently, we are searching for professional canine trainers who would be interested in supporting the program. Click here for more information. Thanks to the efforts of Board Member and USMC Veteran, Bob Fragasso, who brought Pets for Vets to our attention, Animal Friends is able to hold fast to our roots as we reach towards our future. In appreciation, David J. Swisher President & Chief Executive Officer Animal...

Read More

My experience as VLP’s Public Relations Intern

Posted by on May 17, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

By Janna Reynolds It’s hard to believe my internship with Veterans Leadership Program has come to an end. I applied for the public relations internship to get experience before graduation, and because I fully support VLP’s mission to assist our returning service members. I almost felt like the internship position was created just for me, so I took a chance and sent in my application documents. I had no idea I would benefit so much from the opportunity I was given. Many people in my life have served in the United States military, which was one reason interning with VLP appealed to me. My dad is a veteran of the Air Force, my grandpa was an Army medic in WWII, my mom’s brothers retired from the Navy, my dad’s brother is a Vietnam Veteran and my friend was deployed with the Marines in Operation Enduring Freedom. Several of my cousins have served in the Navy, another recently enlisted in the Army and my best friend is stationed at Naval Station Mayport. The opportunity to work with an organization that helps people like my loved ones has been absolutely awesome. My goal of gaining experience before graduation was accomplished and improved upon each week. I worked with Robin, the Director of Public Relations, on VLP’s social media, press releases and various projects as they were needed. I wrote most of the February newsletter and contributed a few articles to the April and May issues, too. I even got to create VLP thank you cards that are now used by several people in the office! It was cool to be included in conversations about VLP’s upcoming events and updating some of our outreach material. Robin made sure I was happy with my projects and gave me great tips on working in the public relations field that will be helpful as I enter the workforce. She has been a great mentor throughout my internship. My favorite part of working with VLP this semester has been talking with veterans and seeing firsthand how much of a difference VLP truly makes in so many lives. I visited a women’s health fair at the VA in March and was so humbled by the numerous men and women who approached VLP’s table just to say thank you and ask after the staff members who helped them. I knew VLP assists thousands of veterans each year in various ways, but seeing the result of the programs firsthand was indescribable. Although I’m disappointed to see my internship come to an end, I’m very excited to take my experiences with me. I recently interviewed a VLP team member who celebrated his 17th anniversary. He told me that the satisfaction...

Read More