The Barbara Giordano Foundation, Inc. is committed to being recognized as a premiere holistic wellness resource that addresses the unique emotional, physical and personal needs of women veterans throughout the United States. Stop & Shop has supported this organization through the Community Bag Program.
Tell us about The Barbara Giordano Foundation.
The Barbara Giordano Foundation was named after my sister, who was involved in the field of health and wellness as a nurse, a hospital administrator and a holistic wellness coach, focusing on using techniques such as imagery, meditation and hands-on modalities for healing. All of this occurred more than 40 years ago when this type of approach to health was not widely known or accepted.
Barbara’s vision was to create an organization that supported women’s empowerment through the use of holistic wellness experiences. The foundation was founded in 1996, the year that Barbara passed. Initially, our focus was on all women. However, on our 20th anniversary several years ago, the board was drawn to one particular group of women who had been overlooked and were underserviced and undervalued. There were many veterans’ organizations, but practically none focused solely on women. Therefore, we agreed to embrace women veterans as the particular group of women who would benefit from our help.
So, our mission is simple. First, we provide women veterans with holistic wellness tools that address their unique challenges after transitioning from military service. And second, we educate the public about the vital role that women have always played in protecting our nation. Ever since the American Revolution, women have been actively engaged without recognition.
What services do you provide to the community?
The services that we offer, again, all focus on holistic wellness. There are two things that I really want everyone to know about those services.
One, we don’t look to replicate something else that’s being done widely. Rather, we want to provide holistic tools that these women veterans cannot easily get or access elsewhere, either because they’re not available or too expensive.
And second, everything we offer is free to women veterans. We never want the issue of money to impede them from participating and working toward their wellness. I also want to add that our programs are developed so every woman veteran can participate–even those with physical limitations.
A wide variety of programs are offered, but there’s definitely that holistic wellness theme throughout.
We provide equine therapy, both virtually and in person. We also provide a series of workshops, again both virtually and in person, using pets as healers because not everybody’s comfortable with or has access to a horse. A lot of the women veterans have dogs or cats, and actually, some of the women veterans even have therapeutic pigs. We work with all of those animals.
We also provide sound therapy, emotional freedom techniques, which sometimes people know as tapping, and music therapy. Additionally, we also have individual workshops on topics such as diverse issues such as clutter; clutter seems to be a very big problem for women veterans because they leave the military with a lot of what they call their “stuff.” Then they don’t know what to do with it, how to organize it and take care of it. They feel overwhelmed, stressed and view themselves as failures.
We have facilitated workshops on plants and how they can be used as a healing modality. Sometimes people can’t have animals, but they can have a plant, and plants are living organisms, so we work with that. We reach people where they are.
Personal safety is another very big issue. We have many women veterans who tell us that they don’t leave their homes because they don’t feel safe due to their experiences in the military. The foundation does not provide therapy but rather proven holistic techniques for empowerment, stress reduction and well-being. These tools allow women to rejoin the world and see it through a different lens.
Additionally, we also do one- and two-day retreats online and in person. Before the pandemic, we were doing everything in person, focusing on the tri-state area, which for us is New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. But with Zoom, we opened up to the whole country. So now, we have women from every state participating in our programs. That’s particularly important to us, not only because it broadens our reach but because the women are excited to be able to connect with other women in other parts of the country.
What sets you apart from other nonprofits in your community?
I think there are several things. First, all of our services are free. Lack of financial resources is a serious problem for many women veterans. More women veterans are under-employed, not employed and homeless than their male counterparts. The other thing that the women tell us that is really important to them is that we are an organization for women that is run by women.
I want to stress that the foundation is here for all women veterans. We listen to what they tell us they need. We didn’t just jump into this and start producing programs for women veterans. We spoke with them for the first year and a half and asked, “What is it that you need? What is it that you’re not getting?” And they were shocked that people were actually asking them rather than telling them. Some of the individual workshops–dealing with clutter and loneliness–directly result from the women telling us their stories.
Tell us a story that illustrates the good work of your organization.
A woman veteran participated in several of our virtual programs, and she reached out because she was in an abusive relationship and was homeless. She was in Virginia; she had reached out to the Veterans Administration but hadn’t gotten the help she needed. She turned to us because, she said, “I knew that I could get help through the foundation because I was always made to feel safe, supported and heard.”
Through the connections of the foundation, we got her housing immediately and then ensured that she would get the therapeutic services that she required to break free of that pattern of abuse. She’s now living in her own beautiful house with a good-paying job, back in school and looking to train to become a wellness practitioner!
What is your most outstanding achievement or contribution to the community?
Besides having the honor to meet and help women veterans, our most outstanding accomplishment is establishing the first Peace Garden dedicated to women veterans in the United States. It’s a beautiful spot filled with flowers. Each flower was selected because it has a meaning for our veterans. For example, one type of flower means courage, another one means bravery and another means loyalty.
It’s in a public place because we want everybody who sits there to not only find comfort and beauty but also to look at the signage and think about the over 3 million women veterans who sacrificed so much for us.
What do you want people to know about The Barbara Giordano Foundation?
The programs that we offer are all facilitated by the very best women practitioners in their respective areas. We strive to get those people wherever they are. We actually have a woman who facilitated sound therapy for us, she was in Switzerland at the time, but she was renowned and phenomenal, and we were delighted to be able to partner. The beauty of technology is that we can bring in experts from anywhere.
How are you using the funds raised from the Stop & Shop Community Bag Program?
The board is committed to putting all our resources and funds raised into programs for women veterans. We run on a very tight budget–we make every cent count. So the funds from the Stop & Shop Community Bag Program go to programming and also toward the upkeep of the Peace Garden. Besides the money, the people who frequent the stores where we were selected and saw our signage visited the Peace Garden and sent us pictures showing themselves sitting there. That was definitely an additional benefit of this incredible program.
I have to say how grateful we are to Stop & Shop for this program and for being selected.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Our ultimate goal is to establish a physical site as a holistic wellness center for women veterans. I think women have found over history that we have to help each other to really get things done. We’re looking for somebody to understand this vision and understand the need.
Having women come from all over the country to be with other women veterans in a safe environment would be incredibly powerful and empowering. We’re willing to do the hard work to make this happen.
Published July 20, 2023.