American Legion Auxiliary Foundation grant helps provide therapeutic garden at a transitional housing facility for women veterans

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Residents at Cathy’s House, an eight-bed, permanent, supportive/transitional housing program designed for women veterans, enjoy a therapeutic garden provided by a $1,600 Veteran Projects Fund grant from the American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) Foundation, plus a gift of $500 from local Winchendon ALA Unit 193. Funds were used for a bench, equipment, permanent plants, trees, shrubs, and a small shed to house the gardening supplies, while ALA Unit 193’s contribution supported the purchase of seeds, bug spray, and sod.

Cathy’s House, the first of its kind in this rural area of Massachusetts, offers a place of healing for women veterans to overcome personal challenges and gain the benefits from a life of balanced wellness. The goal of the facility, under the direction of the Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center (MVOC), is to provide supportive programming in a safe, permanent, or transitional congregate home setting.

MVOC founder Cathy Stallings McWilliams knows all too well the pain, frustration, anger, and grief that come with the death of a loved one. Almost 40 years ago, her husband, Vietnam veteran Jesse H. Stallings, tragically took his own life while battling post-traumatic stress disorder. He was 33 years old. Cathy McWilliams immediately began a fierce crusade on this issue. Cathy’s House is appropriately named to honor McWilliams’ advocacy for veterans.

MVOC Executive Director William Edson said what began as the Vietnam Era Veterans Outreach Center of Fitchburg opened its doors in 1981, and has become one of the largest nonprofits in Gardner — serving veterans in northern central Massachusetts, across the state, and in other New England states. The MVOC offers low-income housing alternatives and residential readjustment programs, mental health counseling, case management, employment training, personal development, veterans’ benefits resource assistance, medical transportation, and food assistance.

The American Legion Auxiliary Foundation positively impacts the lives of those we serve by funding programs of the ALA today and for future generations.

Founded in 2007, the ALA Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public benefit corporation of the ALA. The ALA Foundation offers an easier way for corporations and individuals to donate money toward the ALA mission. ALA Foundation donations are used to support the Veteran Projects Fund, which supports ALA projects that address the emergent needs of veterans. For example, some of those funds have been used to renovate a veterans homeless shelter, to purchase computer stations and laptops for veterans facilities, and to have local and National Veterans Creative Arts Festivals. ALA Foundation donations also support the Mission Endowment Fund —which uses the interest on donations paid into the fund to support ALA programs. This ensures that future generations may benefit from Auxiliary programs that support veterans and their families.

For more about the ALA Foundation read our blog, How Your Gift to The American Legion Auxiliary Foundation Helps Mission Outreach at

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