Schuylkill County Women's Veterans Group provides support, informational resources to women in region

·4 min read

Jul. 26—The Schuylkill County Women's Veterans Group, an organization providing camaraderie, resources and support to women in the armed forces, is seeking new members.

Founded in January, the group aims to educate and inform veterans of available resources, network with veteran service organizations and provide a support base for women who have served their country, along with their families.

Army Brig. Gen. Laura McHugh established the group with Starr Seip, a recently retired medical service officer in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, citing a need in Schuylkill County for support groups catered toward women in the military.

McHugh said that the Pennsylvania Army National Guard and its overarching agency, the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, have often faced challenges with reaching the state's expansive veteran population — the fourth-largest in the nation — and informing them of resources and benefits.

"Having a group like this at the county level, I think, provides us an opportunity to reach at least the veterans in Schuylkill County," said McHugh, a resident of Pine Grove.

Seip, who also lives in Pine Grove, said the group is open to both active and retired members of the armed forces, as well as those in surrounding counties who may not have similar resources on hand.

"We are a group of females from Schuylkill County," she said, "but if there are females from outside of Schuylkill County that don't have an organization themselves, they are welcome to our group."

The group meets at 6 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month. The inaugural meeting was held in May at Penn State Schuylkill, where Seip, a dietitian, works as an adjunct professor of nutrition classes.

In lieu of a traditional meeting, the group will hold its next gathering at the Schuylkill County Fair, joining a booth manned by the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 4. Representatives of the women's group will be on hand to pass out cards and informational items.

The group has drawn about 10 members over its three meetings, including several who are active members of the military and two members who live outside Schuylkill County.

Lucille Gross, of Macungie, Lehigh County, was excited to join the group, citing a lack of similar organizations in her county for female veterans.

"I think it's a good start, and I'm excited to see where it can go," said Gross, who served 33 years in the Army in various capacities.

During the group's meetings, representatives from organizations such as the Disabled American Veterans and Opportunity House have spoken to the women about potential benefits and resources, as well as about programs relating to important issues in Pennsylvania such as veteran homelessness.

"It's my hope that as we teach and inform the members of our group, they will take that information they're learning and go out and share that with others," McHugh said.

McHugh hopes to have the Women's Veterans Group partner with other organizations, such as Race Across America, American Veterans and Keystone Military Families.

"Eventually, we want to be a 501c3, where we can raise money and sponsor female veterans and send them to conferences that we have here in the state," she said.

McHugh said the group allows women in the military to discuss challenges they have faced that, in some instances, require a different perspective from that of their male counterparts.

"Female veterans have some different challenges," she said. "That's why, in part, Veterans Affairs has made an effort to focus on women's needs, because women's needs, in general, are different than men's needs.

Seip also acknowledges the different dynamic between male and female members.

"When you get together, it's a different conversation than when you're with the males in the room," she said.

Seip encourages more women to join the group to support other organizations and build a broader support base in the region.

Anyone interested in learning more about the Schuylkill County Women's Veterans Group can email scwvg@outlook.com or text Seip at 570-617-3650.

Contact the writer: hlee@republicanherald.com; 570-628-6085