More than a century old, the Foundation for Women Warriors (FFWW) continues to serve one of the military community’s most vulnerable populations – women veterans transitioning to civilian life.
The Vista-based nonprofit addresses the needs of military women and offers programs to help the personal and economic wellbeing of women veterans and their children and empowering their future. FFWW is the only organization in California solely focused on serving women veterans and their families.
Last year, the group served 1,444 women and children with financial assistance, according to FFWW CEO Jodie Grenier. She said 94% of those served have maintained housing, employment or education, and 97% report having an increase in their transition confidence in the future.
FFWW, which has a budget of about $1.1 million, was recently given a boost with its financial needs, netting a $200,000 grant from Chick-fil-A. The Georgia-headquartered restaurant chain granted $5 million overall and named FFWW one of its 46 True Inspiration Awards program winners for 2023.
To be selected for a grant, organizations must show that they champion key issues that align with Chick-fil-A’s corporate social responsibility priorities: Caring for People, Caring for Others through Food, Caring for our Communities and Caring for our Planet. FFWW won under the Caring for our Communities designation.
Chick-fil-A’s True Inspiration Awards were established in 2015 and since then, 250 grants have been distributed to organizations located across 36 states, Washington, D.C., and Canada, impacting more than 3.5 million people. Individual grants range from $30,000 to $350,000.
Grenier, a Marine veteran, said that the funds are unrestricted. That will allow the organization to put the money toward what it most needs for the work it does – helping women transitioning out of the military with housing, employment, education and childcare.
“With the grant being so sizeable, right now we are deeply focused on building out capacity,” Grenier said. “We have a small programs team, we have a small staff, there’s only nine of us. We do lot of great work, but it also means we’re limited in how many people we can serve each year because we’re so lean. We’re focusing on bringing in additional support for our programs, support for fundraising and marketing.”
FFWW began in 1920 in Los Angeles as an organization called Military Women In Need, created mostly for mothers and widows of soldiers who were lost in wartime. The group expanded in 2002 to be more inclusive in supporting both widows of fallen service members and women in the military.
In 2015, the group became Military Women in Need Foundation, and after Grenier took over in 2016, its name changed for good to FFWW to empower the women veterans community. In 2018, the organization moved nearly all its operations to San Diego County from L.A.
Emergency Financial Services Just Part of FFWW’s Assistance
“For years, women have been underrecognized and underserved,” Grenier said. “Today we have a program that serves as kind of an umbrella that oversees various services we provide. Our main program is women that need emergency and transition services. We provide emergency financial services coupled with financial education, help people pay rent, pay utilities if they find themselves in a bind. We also have robust childcare assistance program.”
FFWW also stocks a warehouse with items like diapers, baby wipes and infant formula as well as professional clothing and hygiene products.
The group also provides professional development classes and self-care classes that teach intangibles like self-compassion and self-advocacy. Last summer, FFWW enlisted a psychologist to provide classes on meditation and mindfulness. It also partners with employers to teach how to negotiate a salary, ask for non-traditional benefits and assess a work culture that works for you.
“A lot of times we get pigeonholed into operations jobs or law enforcement or first responders,” Grenier said. “We look into how to basically debunk some myths around various industries.”
Another way FFWW helps is by providing connections so those who are transitioning to civilian life meet others in similar situations who can provide support.
FFWW mostly works with San Diego County women – 62% of its client base are local, up from 32% in 2018. It works with more than 800 partners locally and nationwide.
It also counts on partnerships with businesses such as Nordson Corporation and Hewlett Packard as well as support from San Diego Foundation and Rancho Santa Fe Foundation.
Debbie Anderson, programs director for the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation, said that her organization has awarded FFWW about $180,000 since 2019. In 2022, FFWW received a multi-year grant from the RSFF’s military and veteran grantmaking program, The Patriots Connection.
“The organization was nimble in responding to client needs during the pandemic like childcare and housing assistance, and responds to other essential needs such as employment and education,” Anderson said. “Jodie and her team are tireless advocates for ‘honoring her service, empowering her future’ and we are honored to partner with FFWW. They have been excellent stewards of our funding and we are delighted with the impact they have had on this very vulnerable population.”
Foundation For Women Warriors
CEO: Jodie Grenier
BUSINESS: Veterans services
SOCIAL IMPACT: Organization works to prevent homelessness and enhances the personal and economic well-being of women veterans and their children.
NOTABLE: FFWW has testified in front of Congress twice, seeing that women veterans’ needs are being represented and considered in legislation nationwide.