Women's Conference on Fort Drum informs, entertains
March 12, 2010
Members of the Fort Drum community and beyond gathered at the Commons last week for the 3rd annual Women's Conference, a two-day affair sponsored by the Officers' Spouses' Club.
The event attempts to strengthen connections among Fort Drum women and their surrounding communities.
"We're not just a post that's isolated from the world," said Heather Sutton, chairwoman of the OSC Women's Conference. "We actually have (the Watertown) community that we can rely on, that we can turn to and that we can explore while we're here at Fort Drum."
This year's conference theme was "Bloom Where You're Planted."
"The idea (is) that we live in the North Country and that the best way to thrive and survive is to get to know other people," Sutton said. "We want to celebrate the spouses who have to stay here through ... winters while our husbands are deployed."
Nearly 100 women in attendance Friday chose from 30 classes designed by off-post professionals and experts about everything from health and beauty to childrearing and relaxation.
They attended workshops such as Basket Weaving, Menopause, Teen Depression and Anxiety, Indoor Gardening, Zumba Fitness, Card Making, Indoor Gardening, Chocolate Production, Coping with Grief, Basic Photography and more.
During Wine 101, the voices and activity of women enjoying wines from around the world carried beyond the room's closed doors and extended 10 minutes past the course's closing time.
"I thought this was a great class," said Lori Ashley, an OSC member, who said her favorite wine was a sauvignon blanc from New Zealand.
"This was very informative and also very fun," she said.
Carol Burke, who attended the Creative Writing class, said the last time she did any substantive writing was as a college student.
"I've never done anything like that free-writing exercise before," Burke said.
"I think they have had a really good mix of topics during this conference," she added.
On Saturday, the number of Women's Conference attendants more than quadrupled for a two-hour appearance by Greg Mortenson, New York Times best-selling author of "Three Cups of Tea" and the newly released "Stones Into Schools."
Mortenson, known for promoting education and literacy in remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, especially among young girls, received $14,472 from the OSC to further the work of his charitable organizations - Central Asia Institute and Pennies for Peace.
The money came from more than 1 million pennies donated by local North Country students during January and February.
"I am blown away by the (contributions) of the 19 schools that participated," Sutton said. "I hope that those attending were as touched and honored to be there as I was to have them all there."
The Officers' Spouses' Club administers community welfare programs as well as educational scholarships. Fundraising occurs twice a year to fund both programs, which, in effect, puts money back into the community.
The OSC also holds a luncheon each month to give spouses an opportunity to connect and support one another.
"We may be from different brigades and backgrounds, but it's a way for us to have a ready-made group of people we can select from and become better friends with," Sutton explained.
Sutton moved to Fort Drum four years ago. After her husband, Maj. David Sutton, a family practice physician currently assigned to the Warriors in Transition Unit, reported for his first day of work, she said she realized she had a three-week-old son with no network of support and friendships.
After being invited to an OSC luncheon, she not only attended, but also volunteered to serve on the board.
"The main purpose of the Officers' Spouses' Club is volunteerism," Sutton said. "It's to get out and see people, when we might be home sitting in a corner crying instead."
Sutton expressed some sadness over the fact that her Family will be relocating this summer, most likely to Virginia.
"It's hard for me," she said. "I'll be losing my niche."