Volunteer of the Week: Helping female veterans find a home

By Fred Petke

Lanny Evans is back helping veterans again.

“Everyone in my family was Air Force,” she said. Her husband John is an Air Force veteran as well.

During the Vietnam era, Evans was working as a flight attendant for Pan-Am. She was one of several who volunteered and were selected to fly rest and recreation flights for soldiers from Vietnam to Sydney, Australia, Bangkok, Thailand and Taiwan.

“It was voluntary through Pan-Am.” she said.

The differences between trips were obvious.

“When we were taking them out, they were zoned out, just being (in the war zone),” she said. “When we brought them back, they’d been partying because they (knew) they might not be back on an airplane again.”

For Evans, those flights continued for about three years while she was based in Los Angeles.

In the years since, she married her husband John, returned to Lexington and eventually moved to Clark County about 20 years ago.

About a year ago, she got back into volunteering to help the military after learning about Lady Veterans Connect during a Daughters of the American Revolution chapter meeting. Lady Veterans Connect is building a transitional home for female veterans and their children in the former Trapp Elementary School.

“We have to do community things with DAR,” she said. “I chose Lady Veterans because it’s wonderful out there (at the school). Anything you want, you can do.”

There’s also the appeal of getting involved at the beginning of a project, she said.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to help our lady veterans,” she said. “All we have to do is provide them a home.”

The school is being converted to house up to about 30 female veterans and their children in a safe setting. Organizers said they will offer veterans some services, while helping them use their benefits with the Department of Veterans Affairs and other agencies.

For the last year, volunteers have been cleaning the vacant school and seeking donations and help for renovations. The biggest need, she said, is replacing the school’s coal-fired furnace with a new unit. There is also painting to be done, she said. A core of 10 to 15 regular volunteers will work at the school most weeks, to get the school ready. Evans said they try to do as much as they can with volunteers, rather than having to hire people to do the work.

“All of it takes time,” Evans said. “We do have a lot of (community) support. We will never turn down a donation or a volunteer.”

A number of fundraisers are scheduled, including a golf scramble this weekend at Southwind Golf Course, she said. There have already been yard sales and motorcycle days, and other events will follow until the facility is ready to open.

“Doing something for someone else makes you feel so good,” Evans said. “If you retire and sit, you die. It just makes you feel better.”