By Wallace McBride, Fort Jackson LeaderMarch 27, 2014
FORT JACKSON, S.C. (March 27, 2014) -- Children and parents spent a few hours March 20 drawing, painting and working with clay.
Columbia's Parks and Recreation Department and the Fort Jackson Exceptional Family Member Program have collaborated to create a monthly program called Creative Journey, a support group for families enrolled in EFMP. Creative Journey is an offshoot of a similar program once servicing Soldiers in the Warrior Transition Unit.
"We started it in 2012 and did a trial run that fall at Fort Jackson," said Brenda Oliver, cultural arts specialist for the city of Columbia's Parks and Recreation Department. "We worked exclusively with the Warrior Transition Unit. This is a much condensed version of the program because we're doing mixed media."
Approximately 16 percent of Army families have members with special needs, including spouses, children or dependent parents who require special medical or educational services, according to the U.S. Army Medical Department. The Army created the Exceptional Family Member Program in the early 1980s to support these families.
Scheduled for the third Thursday of each month at the Joe E. Mann Center Ballroom, Creative Journey provides the EFMP families the opportunity to participate in hands-on activities with clay modeling, pottery, water color painting and drawing.
"I'm letting them get used to being with the other EFMP kids, and get more confidence in the program," said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Fox, 171st Infantry Brigade, who brought his son and daughter to last week's program. "They're getting to see more of the experiences that Fort Jackson has to offer. We've only been here about nine months."
"EFMP is a mandatory program that Soldiers have to enroll in if they have a family member with a medical or educational condition," said Brandi Palmer, a Fort Jackson EFMP specialist. "This is to ensure that, when families move from installation to installation, those services are there for their family members. It wouldn't make any sense if they're sent to an installation and have to travel a hundred miles to see a specialist. All of those services are in the area for that family member."
Last week's effort from the city was driven entirely by volunteers and donations, Oliver said.
"All of the folks you see here are volunteers. All of our supplies have been donated, and the community has been very supportive of our outreach program," she said. "We feel that Fort Jackson is part of our community, and (it is) incumbent upon us to reach out to the military."
While they are independent of each other, the city and post have a "symbiotic" relationship, she said.
"Columbia's a big military town, and we need to make sure we keep a big footprint here," Oliver said. "The Exceptional Family Member Program approached us about continuing (Creative Journey) with their families, and we're delighted to be able to do that."
Palmer said this is the second Creative Journey event on post for EFMP. Palmer said the program will continue on the third Thursday of each month, with new activities introduced in future events.
"Creative Journey wanted to continue this program since the Wound Warriors program is going to be transitioning out of Fort Jackson," she said. "EFMP also wanted to continue with this program, and (Creative Journey) wanted to stay on, as well. It's going to be a really great program."