“Women veterans in general are so overlooked and underappreciated,” says China resident and U.S. Army veteran Nichole Jordan. “Women are truly the invisible aspect of after-service to our country.”
While many excellent veterans organizations exist, like the American Legion and VFW, historically the focus of these organizations has been on male veterans and the support they need. With men making up about nine-in-ten of all U.S. military veterans, this makes sense, but Nichole Jordan saw a need for more supportive activities aimed at women veterans. To this end, she started Women Veteran’s Glamping in 2019.
“Glamping” is a portmanteau of the words “glamorous” and “camping” and aims to provide participants with modern amenities while enjoying the Great Outdoors.
At the first Women Veteran’s Glamping event Jordan heard from many of the attendees who said they only knew one other woman veteran in the state. “Being a woman veteran, that really hurt to hear,” she says.
With some amazing sponsors and support, Women Veteran’s Glamping was born. Local graphic design experts from Got Vinyl? Ink & Printing, in Vassalboro, helped design their logo featuring a dragonfly, which represents dedication, beauty, honor, courage, love and selflessness. The goal of Women Veteran’s Glamping is to provide a safe and supportive environment for women veterans to relax and connect with other veterans while enjoying the best of Maine’s natural scenery.
At each event, a Quilt of Valor is presented to a deserving veteran to honor their service and sacrifice to the country. “The quilt equals healing,” says Jordan. “The warmth of the wrap and love that is put into it comforts one’s soul on a day when all seems lost or forgotten. Focus is on those most in need of comfort and healing first; those who need to know their sacrifice is acknowledged, those who need the affirmation of a hug, and those who never heard the words ‘Welcome home.’”
Women Veteran’s Glamping has partnered with two local businesses, Maine Forest Yurts, in Durham, and House in the Woods, in Lee, Maine, to host their weekend retreats. During the first two years they served mostly women veterans in Maine, but in September of 2021, they became an official nonprofit and expanded their events to include women veterans in all 50 states.
Women Veteran’s Glamping has held three previous events with 16 women veterans attending each. This year, they are stepping up their game with seven events planned throughout the year. So far, 152 women have signed up. The trips start on Friday and run through Sunday. Five of the events are scheduled at Maine Forest Yurts, in Durham, with two additional weekends taking place at House in the Woods, in Lee, Maine. Jordan hopes to extend the weekend trips to week-long getaways in 2023.
“Our five-year plan is finding 50 to 100 acres for our own retreat center that will be open year round,” Jordan says. “We will continue to keep Women Veteran’s Glamping in Maine and hope we can secure the land and buildings needed for this down the road. The U.S. has 300,000 women veterans, not including active duty women. There is a calling and a need for this. One step at a time. With God and Country behind us all things are possible.”
Currently, cost for participants is $250 and includes lodging, food, all activities and required supplies, but Jordan is busy fundraising, hoping to cover expenses for most participants in the future.
On Saturday, January 15, Women Veteran’s Glamping will hold a Pancake Breakfast Fundraiser, from 7 a.m. – 11 a.m., at St. Bridget Center, in Vassalboro. Then, on Friday, January 28, there is a Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m., at the Auburn VFW Post #1603, 588 Minot Ave. (To-go boxes will be available if pandemic restrictions require either of the events to be take-out only.) They have an on-going quilt raffle as well, with the winner announced live on their Facebook page on February 19 at noon. T-shirts, printed by Got Vinyl? Ink & Printing, in Vassalboro, will be available for a suggested donation of $20 each. They have also connected with local redemption centers throughout Maine and set up accounts to collect funds, so check with the business where you drop off bottles and cans if you’d like to donate them to the cause.
“This year alone we need over $65,000 in fundraising,” she says. “It grows as time goes on. We still have to purchase 25 sleeping bags; a large, flat top grill with 30-pound propane tanks; and we are fundraising for a 7×16-foot trailer to haul all our event gear in.”
Jordan says fundraising has been difficult because many companies are already giving to veteran organizations with a male focus. “Men get $8,000 hunting trips given to them, yet women veterans do bottle-and-can redemption collections, meal fundraising and quilt raffles to cover the lodging, food and activities for women veterans,” she says. “We have sent out 350 donation request letters to the top companies in Maine, New Hampshire and across the country. We get back lots of rejection letters. Some say they don’t want to donate because we are so new, some say they can’t donate because they already support other, predominately male veteran programs in the state of Maine. We offer an opportunity for recreation and the camaraderie of shared experiences in a safe environment. We will continue to hope that companies and others will want to help honor Women Veteran’s Glamping.”
2020 was a difficult year for everyone with the pandemic going on, but it was a particularly painful one for Nichole Jordan. That year, just before Mothers Day, she received the news that she had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Within three weeks, she had part of her right lung removed. While recovering, she moved back with her folks who had recently bought a house in China. “I am here for when they need me as they age and as I heal from my lung cancer,” she says. “If God lets me live to see 50 years old this year, I promised I would be giving back for my next 50 years to Women Veteran’s Glamping.”
Previously, Jordan lived with her family in Vassalboro from 2010-2012. Her son graduated from Erskine Academy, in South China, before attending the University of Maine at Presque Isle, and then enlisting for active duty in the U.S. Air Force. Her daughter graduated from China Middle School before moving to Texas for high school. Nichole Jordan currently lives in China with her parents and her loyal black lab, Willow Grace.
To find out more about Women Veteran’s Glamping or sign up for a weekend retreat, please visit their website at www.WomenVeteransGlamping.org. To contact Nichole Jordan or to find out more about donating to the cause of women veterans, call 456-6114 or email WomenVeteransGlamping@gmail.com.
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