Nina Wilson, the 177th Armored Brigade family readiness support assistant, sorts dishes at the lending closet she created. The lending closet is supported by donations within the brigade and items are

CAMP SHELBY, Miss. - Nina Wilson arrived at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, Miss., more than 18 months ago. Driving around the barracks that were built during WWII, old office buildings and no family medical facility or post commissary, she realized that she was not at the type of military installation she was accustomed to, and it hit her extremely hard.

"I am the wife of an active-duty Soldier and have been serving with my husband's units as a family readiness group leader or volunteer for over 10 years at active duty stations," said Wilson.

Even without a medical facility, Wilson said she still believed that the military programs that support Soldiers and their Families would still be in place. She said it was not long until she realized that there are programs in place, but not to the extent that she was used to at more robust bases such as Fort Bragg and Fort Benning.

"I went into culture shock," she said. "No one had any information on resources I was used to."

Wilson said her first day on the job was an eye opener. The family readiness group documentation for the brigade was out of date. She was already receiving phone calls from Soldiers and their Families for information.

Wilson said she was shocked to discover there was not a facility for an Exceptional Family Member Program at Camp Shelby. Then she discovered there were three families in the brigade with children who had autism and could use more assistance. With some research, she found there are agreements with agencies outside of Camp Shelby, but they are not readily known.

Wilson started making calls and found Autism Services North, a company willing to bring counselors to the Camp Shelby area, to provide services for therapy and support to families with autistic children.

With the first step complete, she went to work on her second task, a lending closet.

"When I pitched the idea of the lending closet, people looked at me like I had lost my mind," said Wilson. "But, there was a need that had to be met."

Wilson said she was determined and was given an old supply building to clean and set up as her lending closet. Dirty and in disrepair, it seemed like she had reached another dead end, but she went to work and received the backing she was looking for in the brigade.

When word of the lending closet spread through the brigade, Soldiers and family members began to make donations.

"The next thing I knew there were tables filled with dishes, clothes, bedding, TVs and microwaves," said Wilson. "School uniforms, which are required in most Mississippi schools, showed up as well."

Wilson realized all of her hard work had paid off when she was able to see the face of the first Soldier who needed help.

"I opened the door to that old building, and everything they needed was there," she said.

Wilson was recognized by the 177th for the exceptional job she has done as the family readiness support assistant.

"She is outstanding and goes above and beyond for the members of this brigade," said 1st Sgt. Joseph Evans, from the headquarters detachment of the 177th Armored Brigade. "We owe her for the new programs and the great family readiness group we now have."

"The brigade deserves the credit," said Wilson. "There were needs, I just pointed them out. Sometimes you have to be creative or dig deep to find a solution."

Page last updated Tue November 1st, 2011 at 12:57