GARDINER — The third annual Women Veterans Conference and Luncheon will offer area women veterans an opportunity to network and learn more about accessible resources on the Olympic Peninsula.
Hosted by Olympic Community Action Program’s (OlyCAP) VetConnect and Veteran Community Partnerships, the conference runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday at Gardiner Community Center, 980 Old Gardiner Road, and is free to all women veterans.
Space is limited and registration is required online at www.eventbrite.com.
The event is $10 at the door for all other attendees.
The event features keynote speakers Lourdes E. “Alfie” Alvarado-Ramos, director of the state Department of Veterans Affairs, and M.J. Mariano of Veterans Affairs Mental Health Services.
It also includes a panel discussion led by Tracy Garrett, retired from the United States Marine Corps, with speakers from local organizations.
“It’s an opportunity for women veterans to come together and learn more, validate their concerns and needs, and find resources to meet their needs,” said Rita Frangione, outreach coordinator for VetConnect.
Frangione said in past years the event has brought in 40 to 50 women.
This year the event is set up to be more intimate, Frangione said, with a sit-down, buffet-style lunch free to all women veterans. In past years, Frangione said the event was similar to a fair.
Soroptimists International of Sequim helped fund the event, with a $1,000 donation to VetConnect going to educational programs for women veterans.
“From previous events, women told us verbally and in writing they appreciated being able to network with one another and meet each other,” Frangione said.
“They tell their stories, share their military experiences and those are some of the reasons we’re doing this.”
In 2017, the U.S. Census’ Bureau projection estimate for women veterans was 397 in Jefferson County and about 807 in Clallam County, Frangione said.
The event also is meant to help women veterans understand how to navigate and gain access to their benefits in their local communities.
“It’s still a hard system for everyone to navigate,” Frangione said.
“Through this outreach, we try to help veterans understand the system, understand how to access their benefits, services they need, to reduce that mystery and frustration.”
She and other organizers hope these events encourage women veterans to create a network where women can feel at home in.
“[The event] is open to anyone and all women veterans,” Frangione said.
“We’re trying to give options for women veterans to gather and know each other and work toward making sure their needs get met so they can have a voice.”
To register for the event, visit www.eventbrite.com, type in the name of the event, and follow the instructions to register.
For more information or assistance, email to email@example.com or call 360-344-4940.
Erin Hawkins is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.