Honoring Special Women in my Life

With this being Women’s History Month, I cannot let this slide unless I bring up the three women in my life that encouraged me to do the things I’ve done that have led me to fulfilling experiences, through building up a charity that has enabled me to touch the lives of thousands of veterans and their families in a positive way through Veterans’ Outreach.

You never know which way your life is going to turn or what might be around the corner. It started with my mother, Grace.  She was courageous, funny, loving, and very inspiring.  She loved me hard and joined me in some nutty projects with little regret, even though some of them never worked.  She loved me unconditionally; I remember her singing and whistling while she worked.

I remember working in my vocals during Sunday school class for she was our Sunday school teacher and instructor. It led the way for me singing in front of millions of people one day with a 20-piece band behind me singing at the All-Star game in front of hundreds of millions of people on TV, plus I spent many years in theater as well.

She was a model and she loved posing for the camera and ended up on even local billboards. During World War II, she was even referred to as a Rosie, taken from Rosie the Riveter because she worked in factories supporting the war effort.

Her future husband, my father, was almost killed in Pearl Harbor. She went on to have seven children and three of them were full term stillbirths.  Because of those early experiences and tragedies, she was tough and learned to cope with difficult times.  I’d like to think that I inherited some of that strength that she embodied.

The other woman in my life that I have everything to thank for now is my wife, Teri.

It has been 40 plus years she’s had to put up with me.  I am more in love with her now than I’ve ever been. She is my partner in a big way, she is the Executive Director. God also blessed us with three wonderful children and six grandchildren that we adore!

Her education and experiences over the years prepared her for the wonderful life’s work and opportunity to serve and honor veterans.  There are a lot of steps and story to building Veterans’ Outreach.  Last year she was voted as one of the “Most Remarkable Women of the Valley” and “Hometown Hero”.

Her stewardship has brought the charity to platinum status on GuideStar, and 100% compliance with Charity Navigator.  In an interview late last year, she mentioned that we needed a bigger building to expand our programs for veterans.  That led to the purchase of our next national headquarters.  This move will expand our space by 700%!

The complex of three brick buildings sits on 2.6 acres with a HUGE parking lot.

Now that is very cool.

The third woman in my life that I would like to recognize, is our daughter Elisha. In the early beginnings of the charity, at the age of five or six, she volunteered to help make patriotic buttons as thank you gifts for donors.  She is a beautiful blonde with genius scribed on her brain. She had decided to move to North Carolina to finish her education where she found the mountain man of her dreams. She finished her bachelor’s degree in wildlife conservancy.  That led her to be the Executive Director of an animal shelter in Tennessee until she was picked up by Bissell Corporation Pet Foundation to help relocate animals that were in bad situations at other shelters nationwide.

When Covid 19 hit in 2020, as you know, things changed. She and her husband and two sons decided to move north to be closer to family.  They have settled in Jefferson Ohio.  She handles the graphics needs, advertising, and social media for Veterans’ Outreach.  She is also a wife, mom to two little boys, and handles a small farm also.

I also have two lovely daughters-in-law that have made our family complete.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that several other women handle very important responsibilities in the life of Veterans’ Outreach – from Board members, Regional Managers, Business Relations Managers, critical administrative positions, and volunteers.  Without the women in my life, things would not go very well. So, briefly, that is my salute to this month’s honoring women. I am very blessed to have these ladies in my life to help me carry on with the charity that is making a big difference in the quality of veteran’s lives.

If anybody would like to follow up and give me some feedback or get involved in some way, you will not be disappointed.  You can reach me at [email protected].

John Ely