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Straight Talk: Community help

Posted 1/14/2011   Updated 1/14/2011 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Col. Stacy L. Yike
66th Air Base Group commander

1/14/2011 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Question: I was wondering if there is a service on base where families of deployed spouses and single parents may get help with maintaining housing responsibilities in base housing?

I am housesitting for a family on base and I am overwhelmed with the amount of snow needing to be shoveled from the property. Just for mail to be delivered to the house or for anyone to be able to walk up to the house, it is a lot of work for one person to do, especially when the plow trucks come by and pile on additional amounts to the front area that needs to be cleared.

It seems like work that a snow blower could take care of and yet not every home has a snow blower. With the amount of deployments and with military members away for so long, many are left alone in housing or are single occupants or parents that have to manage this on a daily basis. I feel like there should be somewhere to turn for this extra help. Maybe a group of volunteers could get together to lend assistance to those in need?

Perhaps, as a thought, there could be a system where single parents, single occupants or families with deployed spouses can go sign up at the Airman and Family Readiness Center if they need extra help when a major snowstorm occurs. A listing of addresses will be complied of those needing shoveling or snow blowing assistance and volunteers can go clear their walkways. Or, when they sign up for extra assistance, a flag or some sort of sign can be placed somewhere on the house to indicate that home needs extra help. Just a thought, if there isn't already a program in place.

Response: You are a fabulous house sitter! We absolutely want to do everything we can to develop networks for people in need. Several programs already exist. The Landings housing management team offers a deployed spouses program, which is available to all service branches. The program covers both lawn mowing and snow shoveling during the deployment. First sergeants are in regular communication with the housing office, but a copy of the deployment order is all you really need. The maintenance staff is also available for special requests from these family members should they need assistance moving furniture, hanging curtains, etc. This service can be called in on a work order. There is an informal initiative in the works for volunteers to help single parents or others in need of similar support. Talk to the housing office and let them know your needs.

The Airman and Family Readiness Center (A&FRC) is a great resource. The center offers more 200 free seminars to meet the needs of military and civilian personnel, their families and retirees. Through such offerings, the A&FRC helps you build skills to become more resilient while promoting informal networks where people with similar needs come together to help each other in the longer term. These include workshops on dating and relationships, parenting and childrearing and special challenges at each stage. You can find a complete listing of seminars anytime at www.hanscom.af.mil/units/afrc.asp.

Another opportunity to build stronger networks of mutual support is through the A&FRC Family Readiness Program's monthly Hearts Apart events that bring together families of deployed personnel. Base units also have A&FRC-trained Key Spouses who provide outreach and link families of deployed with needed resources, providing a valuable link between the commander, first sergeant, unit families and formal community resources.

The A&FRC professionals are always available for private, individual consultation on a full range of personal and work-life issues by phone, e-mail or in person by calling 781-377-4222.

The Military Family Life Consultant, also housed in the A&FRC, provides short-term, non-clinical, solution-focused counseling and can be directly reached by calling 781-686-3084.

Another great support mechanism for our deployed families is to get involved with the Hanscom Spouses Club. Visit www.hanscomsc.org/HSC/Membership.html for further information. Having a strong support network makes a huge difference for all of us. I encourage everyone to reach out to your neighbors, whether you live at The Landings at Hanscom or somewhere off base. Say hello to your neighbor. Ask how they are doing. Lend a hand where you can. Our communities are what we make them!

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