KILLEEN - An Army veteran raised in a broken home, where she witnessed domestic violence and substance abuse by her parents, has turned her experience into a force for good.
Retired Master Sergeant Lolita Gilmore grew up and joined the military, where she became involved in family advocacy programs and counseling efforts. She said those experiences helped her overcome what she saw as a child.
"This was something when you know I want something different," Gilmore said. "This is not what I want for the rest of my life."
A few years ago, she realized there were limited domestic violence resources in Central Texas. So, she founded Teach Them to Love Outreach or T3L. She began holding meetings at a local restaurant, and the group grew from there.
T3L is referral based. Gilmore said she wanted to make the experience at the shelter as comfortable as possible.
Half of the 10-person T3L team -- which includes both employees and volunteers -- are Army retirees just like Gilmore. Three more are veterans and two military were military spouses.
"It's hard to help children if you cannot help the mother or the father or the family, because it's a systematic issue," Retired Sergeant First Class Latisha Wilson said. "It may be lack of education, lack of finances, lack of food."
By Tuesday, Gilmore said she had already helped about 15 families in the shelter so far. One former shelter resident, a mother of four children, landed on her feet and gave back with some color and a little imagination. She painted a Dr. Seuss scene in the children's room.
"She went on to get her own apartment, get herself established, and volunteer her services," Gilmore added. "You take those ugly moments and turn them into something beautiful."
The T3L Outreach will be having a charity ball, a Shades of Purple tie affair, coming up in March. The specific date was not immediately clear.
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