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Female vet hopes to start a center that will help Duval County's women vets

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Duval County is home to more women veterans than any other county in the state. One woman says female vets often don't get the help they need and end up falling through the cracks.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Dee Quaranta of WorkSource gets people jobs. Specifically, she gets veterans jobs. But she sees a bigger need.

"I just see too many tears at my desk of women that need help," Quaranta said.

Quaranta knows what they're going through.

For 20 years she served in the U.S. Air Force, living on bases around the world.

Quaranta ended up back in Jacksonville, a single mom of three.

"Even though I was a retiree, my retirement pay was tied up into a joint debt with my ex husband," she said.

And she didn't know where to turn.

"Here I am, a retiree ... and I needed food stamps," she said.

She couldn't get them.

"I just didn't know what was out there ... where can I get help?"

She got help ... but only from her church and her mom.

"My mom has been my rock," she said.

But now -- working at WorkSource -- Quaranta knows not everyone has that kind of rock.

"I can say I was homeless," said Kim Goodson, a U.S. Army veteran.

Goodson lives in the temporary housing at the Allied Veterans Center off of Atlantic Boulevard.

Goodson found the transition from military life to civilian life "very challenging."

"I think for some reason, people who have not served in the military, they don' t realize what we've been through and gone through," Goodson said.

Goodson, divorced with no place of her own, went back to school but has not been able to find a job.

"I was like, 'wow.' I'm at a point I've done so much in my life and just to hit rock bottom like this and to have to ask somebody for help, it was tough for me," she said.

She said women vets deal with issues that many men don't, such as "sexual abuse, sexual discrimination."

And she didn't know where to turn for help either, until she met Quaranta.

Quaranta knows there are many women veterans in Jacksonville who need help. Just look at the numbers. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, Duval County has the largest population of female vets in the state. We're talking about more than 12,000 female veterans who live right here.

"What do I want to do about it?" Quaranta said.

Jessica: Yes.

"I want to do something about it. I want to have the women's veteran's resource center," she said.

Quaranta wants to create a one-stop shop for women veterans in Jacksonville, pulling together the resources already available.

"There are a lot of veterans benefits out there that a lot of military just don't know about," she said.

She's been working on the dream for about a year.

"And now really, all I need is a building," she said.

It's all to help women like Goodson and herself.

"I don' t want anyone to have to go through what I went through ... to have to deal with it the way I dealt with it," Quaranta said.

On a side note - Dee's dream came under attack. About a year ago, She was diagnosed with breast cancer.

But again - her mom came to the rescue.

"I've had to go through the cancer ... and all that ... and it's been my mom. It's been my mom," she said.

Dee's not stopping. "No. No. I've got too much living to do!!" she said.

She's going to be a rock - for the women veterans who need one.

"I'm going to be their mom, their rock! I'm going to do it. Yeah, I want to make sure they have what they need," she said.

Because Quaranta says -- the help is there for women vets. She'll just guide them to it.

The Northeast Florida Women Veteran Roundtable will be held on Nov. 10 from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. It will address issues important to women veterans.

The roundtable will take place at Florida State College at Jacksonville's downtown campus in Bldg A. This is a springboard for the resource center, Quaranta said.

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