Posted by Bill Selzer on Oct 03, 2022

On Friday, September 30, the Elmbrook Rotary Club (ERC) welcomed the Veterans in Focus program and Bonnie Bertram introduced guest speaker Courtney Zeller, C.T.R.S. Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist. Courtney has been a Specialist for 12 years with the Zablocki VA Hospital Health Care System. Accompanying her was US Army Iraq Veteran Lavella Green, a program participant, and Kris Hinrich a Milwaukee Rotary V.I.F.P. volunteer member.

As an outpatient health setting specialist, Courtney’s goal is to have a positive impact on veterans who have served our country, focusing on mental health, wellness, and maintaining a stable housing setting.

After visiting veteran homes in 2017, she saw a common theme. Many homes were stark and void of artwork and photographs. These visits inspired her idea. As part of her practice, she envisioned that photography could be one of her therapeutic interventions. This led to the development of the Veterans in Focus Program paring wellness with photography skills, for example:

- Mindfulness and focus

- Identity and perspective

- Balance and composition

- Positive thinking and lighting

The program participants visit various sites in the metro area, they attend instructional sessions on taking portraits, and have an opportunity to listen to a military photographer lecture. At the end of the program, the artists create a photography exhibit of their works. These exhibits have been sponsored by many companies and venues throughout metro Milwaukee. 

The benefits and goals of the program are to:

- Reduce stress and social isolation

- Boost self-esteem & confidence

- Personal accomplishments

- Improve focus & attention

- Explore and connect with community

- Social skills & camaraderie

- Healthy leisure skill

Veterans receive their personal, framed photographs that they can display in their homes. This program is offered annually in two group sessions, spring, and fall. 

Lavella Green shared how this program has positively impacted her life by giving her an opportunity to get out of the house, enjoy the fresh air, and develop her photographic skills. She shared her portfolio of photographs with the group.

Courtney gave a special thank you to Bonnie and the ERC for the support of this program. The ERC has been involved in this program for the past five years through the purchase of cameras, photo printing and framing.

If you are interested in seeing the photographic works of our Veteran artists, here is the information for the next exhibit:

Exploring the Milwaukee Community Through Photography

Date of Exhibit: November 2nd-November 11th (open to the public, Monday-Friday 8am-4:45pm)

Location: Milwaukee City Hall Rotunda, 200 E. Wells St.

Special Meet & Greet the Veterans Artists: November 11th from 12pm-2pm