LeeAnne Linderman became an advocate for homeless military veterans almost by accident.
It was late 2013, when the president of Zions First National Bank had to back out of a commitment to speak at a "Fatigues to Fabulous" fashion show and Linderman, the head of retail banking, was summoned to fill in for him.
At the event, part of a national campaign to provide business attire to female veterans, a woman from the Department of Veterans Affairs mentioned to Linderman that four of the female veterans in attendance were homeless.Two were living in shelters, and the other two were living out of their cars because the shelters wouldn't accept children.
Linderman also learned that many of Utah's homeless female veterans had been victims of sexual trauma in the military.
"My reaction was, 'These women served their country. How could they possibly be homeless?'' says Linderman. "How could we let this happen?"
Linderman decided that she needed to do something and, soon thereafter, she started organizing Veteran Mothers, a nonprofit that provides shelter for homeless female veterans with children.
She learned there was an empty floor at the local YWCA a program designed for teenage mothers had lost its funding and quickly set out to raise the funds she needed to use the space for her own project.
Linderman has tapped her business connections to get the nonprofit off the ground and raise awareness for its mission.
An attorney who works in her building took care of the legal filings for free. Her books are being handled by an accountant for her husbands' businesses. The website was created by an advertising firm that works with the bank.
Veteran Mothers is expected to open in November. It will have space for 32 women and children and the VA will have an employee on site to make sure "the women have all of the support they need," Linderman says.
The first donation came from the rock bands KISS and Def Leppard, who gave $10,000 on the opening night of their summer tour. The two bands frequently give money to veterans groups, Linderman says.
Veteran Mothers also has received support from Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and his wife, Jeanette, who are expected to be present for the ribbon-cutting.
Meanwhile, Zions is increasing its support for veterans and military families. The bank created a department of veterans affairs to assist employees whose spouses had been deployed. It also established an internship program for veterans, to help them gain business experience.
"This entire experience has been one where everything has aligned seemingly easily," Linderman says.