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YWCA art show to benefit women veterans16 April 2012
Greenwich artist Janet Baldi will have her art displayed in the YWCA Greenwich’s Gertrude White Gallery through April 28, and 50% of the sales of her work will be donated to the Female Soldiers: Forgotten Heroes Program at the non-profit Applied Behavioral Rehabilitation Institute (ABRI) Inc./Homes for the Brave in Bridgeport. This program provides needed help for homeless female veterans, a group of returning soldiers too often ignored.
At a reception last Wednesday, April 4, to launch the new exhibit, which consists of Ms. Baldi’s paintings and sculptures from her decades as an artist, the YWCA pledged its continued commitment to helping female veterans in need and featured remarks from Amanda Teti, development director for the ABRI Homes for the Brave.
“No veteran should be without a home in this state,” Ms. Teti said. “But we go far beyond that. We want to make sure they don’t end up homeless again, and have the resources and the support they need to continue on. We provide vocational services and help them practice for interviews and do job searches and find appropriate clothing for interviews. When they live in our housing they have to be looking for work. They can’t just be biding their time. We help them go back to school if that’s what they want.”
The program has already helped more than 700 homeless male soldiers, Ms. Teti said. It was deemed such a success that it was decided to expand it to help women as well. Ms. Teti said in looking at what services were not being offered by the state to help veterans, there was a real gap in assisting female veterans.
“Historically, they’ve been a small population, but they’ve always served in some way,” Ms. Teti said. “Obviously they serve in an even greater capacity today than they have in the past and there was no program in the state that focused on their needs and gave them a safe place to live.”
The proceeds from the art show will be able to help not only the shelter, which opened last November, but with job programs and other transitional efforts.
At Wednesday’s reception, Shalini Madaras of Wilton, vice chairman of ABRI Homes for the Brave, also spoke and talked about her own personal commitment to helping soldiers. The mother of Private First Class Nicholas Madaras, who was killed in action in Iraq, Ms. Madaras is the founder and president of Kick for Nick, a foundation that brings soccer balls to Afghani and Iraqi youths, a project of her son’s that he never got to see come to fruition. The foundation is expanding to places like Jamaica, Ecuador and Liberia and every ball has Nick’s name on it. The foundation has been recognized for its work by top U.S. military officials and Ms. Madaras said the family’s commitment didn’t end there.
Inspired by two female soldiers working with her son on the soccer ball project before his death, Ms. Madaras said the Kick for Nick foundation partnered with Homes for the Brave to create Connecticut’s transitional and supportive housing program for homeless female veterans. At the PFC Nicholas Madaras Home, the length of stay is two years and during that time, the home works to make sure residents get the assistance they need to be able to return to civilian life.
“Nick went to Iraq to serve his country and his spirit still continues to do this through the Kick for Nick Foundation,” Ms. Madaras said.
The program received the full support of Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). The Greenwich resident, who is a member of the Senate’s Armed Forces Committee, spoke at the reception praising Ms. Baldi as a “great artist and an extraordinary human being.” Mr. Blumenthal also praised Ms. Madaras and her husband for what they had done, saying that he brags about their efforts and accomplishments to his colleagues on the committee. He also called the new shelter for women “a landmark.”
“Our country should know that female veterans deserve better,” Mr. Blumenthal said. “It’s that simple. They’re often ignored or disregarded for what they do. They serve alongside men in combat and they make an incredible and invaluable contribution. They are as every bit as valuable as any male and they deserve better. They deserve our best help when they are homeless or need health care or need education or counseling. We fail our veterans when we do not keep faith with them. This is a way of keeping faith with our female veterans.”
YWCA Greenwich President and CEO Adrianne Singer said becoming involved with this organization was an easy choice because it fits right into the YWCA’s mission to support and empower women. She also noted it’s the continuation of a YWCA tradition of working with military families for more than a century and helping “those who fought bravely for their country, many at considerable loss.”
Ms. Singer credited Ms. Baldi with the idea for putting together the art show and said her generosity had made it all possible. In an interview with the Post, Ms. Baldi talked about her long history of painting and sculpture, which she has been doing since 1950. She has done a lot of still life works with European influence based on her extensive travels there. She specializes in paintings of items everyone has around their house and elevating them to what she calls “a state of elegance” through the painting.
A longtime user of the YWCA, Ms. Baldi said she wanted to help the shelter when she heard about it and thought this was the best way to do it.
“I believe our veterans,” Ms. Baldi said. “For a woman to leave their lives here and go and serve is noble beyond belief. I so admire them and I wanted to help.”