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Northeast Florida Women Veterans: Helping Women Rebuild and Transition to Civilian Life

By Gwinn Volen

50% of women leaving the military have experienced some kind of sexual trauma while in service. Yes, it’s a staggering statistic. It’s difficult to fathom the profound sense of despair one might feel after such an experience, compounded by the challenge of rebuilding a life outside the military, and trying to transition skills into civilian settings. Often, women do not even explore the benefits and retraining programs offered by the VA. Instead, they fall into depression and poverty.

 “It became overwhelming to see the increase of women veterans coming into my office needing help that was not available in the community,” said Dee Quaranta, President and Founder of the organization. “After asking some of my community contacts if they would consider creating a program that addressed the needs of women veterans and getting a ‘we don’t have funding’ or like ‘what?,’ I decided that I had to do something so I quit my job at CareerSource and here I am today.”

Qauranta has a warm personality and you can feel her passion for her women veterans. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with her and equally passionate Penny Justice, the Board President, to delve deeper into this passion project. We discussed what Northeast Florida Women’s Veterans does and what they need from the community.

The Northeast Florida Women’s Veterans organization, established in 2012, was founded to address the specific needs of these women. Duval County boasts the largest population of women veterans in Florida, and Florida itself has the second-largest population of women veterans in the US.

NEFL Womens Veterans has built up several programs over the years to address the needs of women veterans. Here are a few of the programs that stood out.


HerSPACE offers emergency housing assistance. Located in Jacksonville Beach, their home provides shelter for women veterans and their children as they work towards stability.

They opened the house in the Spring of 2021.  “We had no idea what we were doing but we knew it was needed,” said Quaranta.  It was donated (at $1.00 a year) by St Andrews Lutheran Church by the Sea with the facilitation of Cindy Funkhouser, CEO of Sulzbacher. “We knew it was a God-send,” Quaranta said. 

Since the first women veterans entered the door, 34 women and 4 children have come through the doors, received case management, developed a plan, and moved into stable housing.

With each win, they still see challenges, affordable housing being one of them. They do their best with placement into stable housing. Quaranta’s motto “Must do the work.” This has worked for her team, especially during the tough times. 

“HerSPACE has definitely helped us to grow and learn and become even more passionate about helping women who served just like us,” she said. These women have given a great deal to ensure citizens enjoy their freedom, and Quaranta strongly believes our community needs to do more to ensure these women have what they need to succeed.

Operation HerSPACE Home


This six-week program is designed to address isolation, build confidence, and set women on the path to success. It covers a wid- range of topics including employment training, physical and mental health, and financial management. For many women, this program serves as a crucial first step in starting anew after a military career.

Horseback Riding

Operation HandUP

Many female veterans leaving the military find themselves homeless, resorting to sleeping in cars or couch surfing. Operation HandUP provides essential resources such as food, bedding, hygiene products, and clothing for job interviews. The NEFL Women Veterans office is well-equipped with supplies and friendly staff, many who have gone through the various programs offered, eager to lend a helping hand.

Fresh Refrigerated Items in the Headquarters HandUP Kitchen


This is a 6-month program offered to further focus on mental wellness, eating and health, and stress management. NEFL Womens Veterans has an on-site counselor who leads this six-month program. There is always on-site counseling at the main office to support female veterans through this journey. The enthusiasm and caring of the counselors is instrumental in guiding these women toward a healthier life.

Beach Yoga For Wellness and Health

How Can You Help

The Northeast Florida Womens Veterans organization is funded through grants, donations, and the support of community partners like the Women’s Giving Alliance, a collective giving organization. If you’d like to support these hard-working women, here are some ideas:

  • Do you have grant-writing skills you’d like to share with them? If so, reach out to them via email at
  • Make a direct donation to the organization. Visit the website and click on the DONATE button:

The Facts for Women Veterans

  • Florida has the second-largest population of women veterans in the country.
  • Northeast Florida has the largest population of women veterans in the state of Florida.
  • 1 in 3 women who use VA care, report being sexually assaulted while in uniform.   
  • 85% of the women Northeast Florida Womens Veterans serves are survivors of MST (Military Sexual Trauma).
  • Northeast Florida Womens Veterans is the only organization in the state offering this array of services.  Some organizations offer one or two things but none have wrap-a-around services like Northeast Florida Womens Veterans.

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About the Author

Gwinn Volen is the owner of The Volen GroupKeller Williams Luxury International a Ponte Vedra Beach top-producing real estate team selling in Northeast Florida with annual sales of over $100M. She is also a member of the Women’s Giving Alliance.

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