By Ms. Lacey Justinger (USAG Hawaii)July 21, 2008
FORT BLISS, Texas - Because of increased support from the Army Family and Community Covenants, the Fort Bliss Army Community Service organization is able to augment programs with additional staff and resources and build partnerships between Fort Bliss and El Paso, Texas.
"We are mainly the umbrella organization that pulls all the services together, both on the installation and off," said Peggy Brown, chief of ACS at Fort Bliss.
ACS was able to fund 13 new positions in the Exceptional Family Member, Deployment Readiness and Unit Service Coordinator programs.
"Unit service coordinators have been extremely beneficial," said Brown. "Folks can go out into the military community and network directly with the brigade and battalion commanders to let them know exactly what services we provide. It's a personalized program of providing services based on individual units' needs. That has been wonderful."
Brown said with the community covenant, ACS plans to focus the outreach to the Family members in the community. Many times Families, especially in the National Guard and Reserve, are not aware of the services on the installation.
"We're going to beef up our outreach," said Brown. "Our plan is to get folks out there in the community to let them know that we are here and which services are available to them."
ACS will work more closely with community churches, schools and local civilian agencies that might already be providing services to the military Families, like respite care providers.
Covenant funding provided thousands of dollars in contracted respite care to Families who have either an adult or child with educational or physical special needs.
"Respite care is needed to reduce the stress of having an exceptional Family member within the home," said Brown. "It is hard to find because it requires care providers to be specifically trained to handle the individual's needs."
Deterrents for many military Families who are in the Exceptional Family Member Program is the cost and location of respite care. It is often more expensive than traditional child care and often located off post.
"We never had this option before," said Brown. "It has been a great benefit to our families."
Additional covenant benefits include enhanced funding for several programs such as the Waiting Families support group and the Yellow Ribbon Room. These are places for Families to gather and bond with others who are going through the same life experiences.
ACS was able to build a lending library composed of more than 1,000 books. The subjects range from financial planning and job searches to stress and deployment. A second copy of every book is available for Soldiers and Families at the Restoration and Resilience Center so they have access to the same resources.
Brown added that she hopes the covenants will increase the awareness of the services and programs that are being offered, as well as additional support in the community for the Soldiers and military Families.
"We could not do what we do without relying on outside or civilian agencies," she said.