As a nurse who served for 33 years in the Army Reserve, including a stint in Desert Storm, retired Col. Christine Mahon of Ahwatukee has a special place in her heart for veterans, particularly the women who belonged to one of the branches of the Armed Forces.
That’s why she and Pat Upah of Tempe, as members of Veterans First Ltd., organized a drive on behalf of some 165 women veterans in the Navajo and Hopi Nations, where many also live with their children in domestic violence shelters.
The drive was aimed at collecting a range of badly needed items, from hygiene and household cleaning items to clothing and things for kids.
The drive fit right in with Veterans First Ltd.’s mission: “Preventing homelessness and stabilizing lives among our women veterans while providing referrals, resources and information to all veterans, their families and caregivers.”
The response to the month-long drive overwhelmed Mahon.
“I’m blown away by the generosity,” she said. “It is just very heartening that they want to help these women.”
She ticked off some of the donors: a group called Forty And Better at Mountain View Lutheran Church helped collect items as a service project; a quilting group called Strawberry Patchers donated money so she could fill the items needed for the drive and money for the materials that the Ahwatukee Recreation Center charity sewing group used to make 68 lap-sized quilts.
Others included the Daughters of the American Revolution in Buckeye, the First Baptist Church of Tempe, the Military Order of the World Wars and other church and secular organizations.
A native of New York who has lived in Ahwatukee since 1978, Mahon is the daughter of a World War II veteran and the niece of an Army nurse.
So, in some ways it was almost natural that after earning her nursing degree, she also enlisted in the Army Reserves.
Besides her service to her country, Mahon also has served a community closer to home: She worked until 2005 as a public health nurse, serving as an administrator for the Community Health Center, running the immunization and disease surveillance programs.
Even now, she also serves as a volunteer with the Maricopa County Medical Reserve Corps – and has spent some time administering COVID-19 vaccines.
The pandemic’s impact on the Hopi and Navajo Nations drove her and other members of Veterans First Ltd. to come to the aid of their fellow warriors.
She said the group is dedicated to helping women veterans avoid homelessness and get integrated back into society once they leave the service.
“A lot of women have suffered in the military,” she said. “Some of them have all kinds of social issues and we do everything to support them and many have children. So, we do help a lot of children too.”
For months during the early stages of the pandemic, tribal members were especially hard hit.
“People don’t realize how many Native Americans serve our country and how many women serve our country,” she said.
So Veterans First liaisoned with coordinators at both reservations to find out what those women veterans need even now in the seemingly waning pandemic.
The list was staggering – but, as Mahon noted, so is the need.
Though the boxes of donated materials will be shipped out of Mahon’s garage in the next few days, people can still help.
Donated items should be packed in boxes or suitcases and clearly labeled and Veterans First will arrange to pick them up.
It’s easier to list what is not needed: small appliances, food, furniture, pillows or dishes.
Think medical supplies, hygiene supplies, household cleaning items that don’t have a strong odor, new large adult sports bras and sizes 8-9 briefs (no high cut) toilet paper, new or gently used towels, socks, jackets, bedding, baby and kids clothing and toys.
Because Veterans First is a certified nonprofit, donations are tax deductible.
People also are welcome to write a check, with “women veterans” in the memo field and made out to Veterans First Ltd., sent to: Veterans First, 8433 N. Black Canyon Hwy. Ste 164, Phoenix, Arizona 85021. Information: 602-841-7663.