The Rev. Kelly Ayer (Class of 2010), rector at Zion Episcopal Church, Avon, New York, has devoted her ministry to formation of a transitional living home for homeless female veterans, Zion House, where she is Executive Director. She recently found an ally in New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who visited Zion House last month. Gillibrand discussed the needs of female veterans with Ayer, the staff of Zion House, members of the Zion Episcopal Church, Bishop Prince Singh, staff from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and female vets who live or have lived in Zion House. Much of the conversation focused on the difficulties women face as active duty personnel and military veterans. Gillibrand said she and other elected officials are working to reduce sexually related attacks within the military, in addition to providing better ongoing help to female veterans.
“I think Zion House is a perfect example of what works,” the senator said. “What we can do is show this as an example to every community across our state and across the country… There is such a gap in providing the services these veterans need. We’re solving it here at Zion House. We would need to do that all across the state, all across the country. And we should.”
Ayer said she’s been working for years to build this kind of awareness of the mission and that she was humbled by the senator’s praise. “It’s really gratifying to see all the elements coming together. There have been times when it’s been very difficult to hold on. Moments like this make it all worth it.”
A veteran herself, Ayer was called to Zion Episcopal Church after graduating from General. She oversaw renovations, completed Veterans Administration inspections, developed a work rehab program for the residents, and built a home that has served as many as 40 women since 2010. Ayer notes that 75 percent of the residents go into permanent housing and get back on their feet. “I love this job. I love the work we’re doing, and I’m grateful to the Church, the Diocese, Bishop Singh and [the Rev. Canon Julia Cicora] for getting me up here.”
Ayer added that the work of many had helped bring Zion House to where it is today. “We’ve got a great staff, wonderful folks supporting us, a great bunch of ladies – we’re really in a position where we’ve survived the worst of it, and we just have the future to look forward to. I think that’s awesome; the Holy Spirit has totally done us a solid.”
To learn more about Zion House click here.