By Tazanyia Mouton, USAG-Natick Public Affairs September 25, 2013
NATICK, Mass. (Sept. 25, 2013) -- In an effort to get the word out about community offerings and activities, the Natick Army Community Service hosted a showcase Sept. 24.
Vendors from about 15 different organizations, on and off the installation, were represented at the showcase.
The event supplied valuable information from such organizations as Operation Military Kids, The Center for the Arts in Natick, Morse Institute Library and Bay Path Elder Services, just to name a few.
Heather Leiby, director of Natick's ACS, said an installation such as this provides a unique situation.
"When you look at an Army installation, there are tons of resources," Leiby said. "You have community theaters, bowling alleys, different types of things … But here at Natick, because of our size, our MWR is smaller, ACS is small and the resources you would normally see on a large installation don't necessarily exist here."
Leiby said the goal of the event was to reach out into the community and connect resources to Soldiers, family members, Department of the Army civilians and contractors.
"While we may not have the service directly on post, there is something comparable off post," Leiby said.
Leiby also said that this makes Soldiers who are newly stationed here feel comfortable knowing that if they can't find a specific activity on the installation, they can at least find it within the community.
And when looking for those activities, or maybe a cost-effective way to get to and from work, the MetroWest Transit Authority was around to answer any questions.
Terry Garrahan, an environmental engineer with the Directorate of Public Works, was at the event to let everyone know how people on post can save some money while using public transportation.
"Soldiers and civilians are allowed to get a benefit for taking the train," Garrahan said. "Last January, Congress increased the benefit to $245 per month."
Garrahan added that the amount has fluctuated due to budgetary needs.
Garrahan says that could cover the entire monthly cost if any employees wanted to commute by train and take the shuttle bus into work.
"We want to let the Soldiers and civilians that are not necessarily familiar with this area know that we have the transit authority here," Garrahan said.
Garrahan also said the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce was at the event because businesses in the area are trying to come together and offer solutions on how to improve carpooling.
"(We want to) reduce the traffic congestion and air pollution for the environment," Garrahan said. "With the chamber of commerce, we're just trying to come up with common solutions on how to make things better."
Garrahan said he felt the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority and Chamber of Commerce were able to supply patrons with valuable information.
If you are interested in the transit benefit program or how to get information about the carpool service or shuttle buses, you can go to the portal at https://natiportal/garrison/env/commuter/default.aspx.
Leiby said she was pleased with this year's event, but going forward, she would like to incorporate more veterans' services to participants.
"We have such a large veteran population that works here at Natick," Leiby said. "Having that resource available would be beneficial … maybe a Veterans of Foreign Wars or American Legion sort of an organization that could connect our young veterans back into the veteran community."
And most important, the showcase was about making connections.
"The vendors I talked to were happy with the connections that they made," Leiby said. "Just being in the room with one another fostered some connections. The people that did come found the material useful and helpful."