ASYMCA: A mission to support for Soldiers, Family members
November 1, 2013
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - There are a lot of things the Armed Services YMCA does for military members and their families, from the After 5 Boutique, to the Food Pantry and Thrift Store. "Our mission is to help E5 and below," said Rachel Oldfield, ASYMCA program manager, "when some of our Soldiers and families are simply stretched financially, we are there to help them out."
ASYMCA on Fort Wainwright does a number of things to meet their mission, including bringing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cookies to deployed Soldiers when they leave and when they return.
The Food Pantry located at the ASYMCA office on post can definitely help out in a pinch. "It is for families who may be having some trouble buying groceries. They just come to the office and get what they need -- no questions asked," Oldfield said. The only thing they do ask is that the military member sits down with a financial counselor at Army Community Service, "so they don't get dependent on the program." The idea is to help get to the next paycheck by supplying diapers, baby formula and canned food items. "We are there to help take the stress off Families, especially during this most difficult trying time."
Many of the items in the food pantry are donated by people who no longer need diapers and baby formula or are leaving the installation and don't want to take the extra canned food items with them.
Oldfield said they are always needing to restock food items and will also accept unopened cleaning products as well as unused toiletries.
Another ASYMCA benefit is the Thrift Store located in Building 1031. They carry a variety of items from furniture and household goods to clothing and toys. "Furniture and clothing is expensive. Kids outgrow things and families just can't afford to always buy new ones," said Oldfield. "Especially when someone happens to move here during the winter, they come from some place warm and all they have are sandals and shorts. We have the resources to help them out." She also said there are often times families arrive before their household goods and need furniture. "We have those things at a reasonable price to help people feel at home and reduce that financial burden." Another Thrift Store bonus is they give toys away -- another item kids outgrow that often end up in a heap.
Soldiers and spouses who are required to attend various parties, military balls and special events need formal wear. "These functions are often especially during the holiday season and buying a nice dress or suit can be another monetary drain on the family," Oldfield said, "For them, we have the After 5 Boutique with articles for loan." It is available to anyone with a Department of Defense ID card, but is also one of the areas where the ASYMCA is lacking. Anyone who has a dress they'll never wear again, a tuxedo, dress shirts, ties or formal-wear accessories is encouraged to recycle those items, rather than throw them out or let them sit in the closet.
Y-on-Wheels promotes sustainability and helps with the reduction of automobile exhaust emissions. Oldfield said, "For now we offer rides to and from anywhere on post, door-to-door, Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., for a dollar. This helps Soldiers and family members save fuel, is less wear and tear on their personal vehicles, encourages carpooling and hopefully helps alleviate some traffic congestion issues."
Perhaps the crowning moment during a nonstop year of service to military families is the annual Father-Daughter dance. The festive ball is an opportunity for military members and their daughters, including National Guard and Reserve, to share a magical experience enjoying each other's company.
This year's formal event, "Enchantment under the Sea," hosted more than 300 fathers and daughters, both active duty and retirees, from Clear Air Force Station, Fort Wainwright and Eielson Air Force Base.
The Father-Daughter dance was at the Pioneer Park Civic Center Sept. 20. Oldfield said the guys and gals were dressed to the hilt.
"Jose Martinez, also known as DJATM, played music while the happy couples danced the night away, which included a game of musical chairs and a conga line," Oldfield said.
Operation Military Kids provided the dads and daughters with several craft projects throughout the night.
"What fun it was to see girls work with their dads on crowns, beading and coloring," Oldfield said, "and of course we couldn't have done it without our generous sponsors and awesome volunteers."
The ASYMCA works to improve the quality of life for active military, Family members, retirees and veterans. They are sustainable through grant funding and private donors, which Oldfield hopes will continue to grow. "We are careful not to overcharge for items at the Thrift Store," she said. "We only hope it helps us maintain it and the other programs we provide. Our goal is to make it a sustainable part of the community and put back whatever it brings in."
For more information on ASYMCA and the programs, drop by the Fort Wainwright office at 1047 Nysteen Road, visit www.asymcaofalaska.com or call 353-5962.