ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Rock Island, Ill. -- Operation Family Timeout, a program created and coordinated by the Rock Island Arsenal Army Community Service in 2005, continues to provide "free time" opportunities for the spouses of deployed military service members, as well as mobilized Department of Army civilians.

Family members of deployed personnel from all branches of the military and mobilized civilian employees, whose children are ages six-weeks to 12-years-old, may use the program. Most importantly the program provides a support network for military family members who all share a common bond.

Army Community Service is currently partnering with state and county agencies in both Illinois and Iowa, and numerous community agencies to offer child care.

"It's four free hours of child care once a month," said Penny Dixon, director of Army Community Services at the Rock Island Arsenal and main organizer for the event. "One mom with five kids and a husband in Iraq suggested it," she said.

With a group of people from several organizations, it took about six months to get the plans together in 2005.

"While our country continues to promote and defend freedom throughout the world, many of our Soldiers' families live their day-to-day life with one less parent," reads a letter sent out by the organizing committee. "During these stressful times, often the spouse is left raising children on his or her own without the ability to take time to relax."

The children can spend a fun-filled afternoon at a local YMCA facility enjoying free activities such as swimming, basketball, racquetball as well as crafts, tutoring, mentoring, and educational classes for the older kids like first aid and babysitting classes from the Red Cross. During this time, parents can stay and enjoy the time with their children, or have a few hours to themselves that they may not have otherwise. A time to have lunch with other spouses, get their hair cut, or just go home and enjoy some quiet time.

The upcoming Operation Family Timeout opportunities in 2011 will be on the second Saturday of each month at Quad City area YMCAs on Feb. 12, March 12, April 9, and May 14. Pre-registration for the free program is required by the Friday one week prior to each session.

"This is a great opportunity for kids in similar situations to engage with one another while giving their parent or guardian a chance to have some me time," said Diane Baker, youth development educator for University of Illinois Extension.

The Program has been continually supported by the Iowa and Illinois State Extensions, Scott County Family YMCA, Two Rivers YMCA, Operation Military Kids, United Way of the Quad Cities, the American Red Cross, as well as other community agencies. The program continues to improve and is considered a great success by Army Community Service that states it continually monitors the needs of the families that use it.

Operation Family Timeout is the result of Army Community Service meetings with the Illinois Army National Guard Family Programs Office. Initially, "one mom with five kids and a husband in Iraq suggested it."

The Program is also an Army Family Covenant initiative established to continue the promise of providing Soldiers and Families with a quality of life that is commensurate with their service. It also meets the Installation Management Community Campaign plans and is funded exclusively through community donations.

For more information about the mandatory pre-registration for qualified personnel, contact Diane Baker (bakerd@illinois.edu) or call U of I Extension at (309) 756-9978. The extension's website is located at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/rockisland/, where registration can be completed online.

Page last updated Thu December 30th, 2010 at 18:10