FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 30, 2016) -- An escape is oftentimes what Soldiers need to shrug off stressors and get through the day, and the Fort Rucker Arts and Crafts Center just added an environment where they can do just that.

The new room opened June 23 where Soldiers can go to work on any arts and craft projects they want to in a space they can call their own, said Joan Varner, arts and crafts program manager.

"This is their room," she said. "I'm ecstatic that we're finally getting to open it up to them. It's been a long haul, but we're really excited to be able to provide this to them."

The concept and construction for the room has been months in the making, but Varner said the overall goal has been accomplished -- to provide a separate place for Soldiers to not only work on their art, but hopefully themselves in the process.

The program is designed for the wellbeing of Soldiers, said Varner, who oftentimes return from deployments and require an outlet to release the stress from their time away.

"Soldiers will be able to do just about any type of craft in here that the space allows," said Varner, adding that currently the space is for Soldiers only.

Soldiers aren't limited to the medium of art they wish to use in the designated space, and can participate if they are just starting out in art or if they are seasoned professionals, said the program manager.

Staff Sgt. Nelson Vazquez, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence NCO Academy, helped with the clearing and construction of the space, and said he believes it will be a great place where Soldiers can come to find an escape from any stresses they might be experiencing.

"I think it's special for the Soldiers to have a little corner for themselves to be able to express whatever they're doing," he said. "This is a great place for us to come to be here and share interests with others. This is a place we can come and play some music and work on our art, and there are also volunteers here to help people out, too.

"This is also great opportunity for single Soldiers, too, because they can come here to learn how to paint or work in other art, and it's great to help take your mind off of some things that you might not need to be focusing on at the time," said Vazquez, who's had experience working in the wood workshop and can attest to the fact that the work can often be therapeutic.

The arts and crafts center has other programs and activities that are open to family members and Soldiers alike, and the center not only provides a great opportunity for stress relief, but also gives people the opportunity to learn a new craft, said Varner.

"Our Soldiers who come here aren't usually here for very long, and oftentimes they'll bring their spouses with them," said the program manager, "so this gives them an outlet where they can work on things or learn a new craft in the time that they're here."

Varner said the arts and crafts center is a great place for people to get in touch with their creative side, even if they have no experience in the chosen medium.

"People who don't know what their medium is can start small with something easy like scrapbooking and then take other classes to explore their creative side," she said. "We offer classes from stained glass and pottery, to wood burning and framing."

There are also classes for sewing, quilting, mosaics, drawing and painting, as well as some classes for children 4 and older. The center also offers a fully equipped wood shop with an experienced staff to help people build anything from a jewelry box to custom furniture, added the program manager.

To use the woodshop or take classes in the woodshop, participants must first complete a one-hour safety course, which will help people become familiar with the equipment and how they work. Safety classes are available Saturdays from 9-10 a.m.

Most classes have age requirements and are by appointment only, so Varner asks that patrons sign up for all classes at least 24 hours before class time, with the exception of the regular woodshop safety class.

If people would rather have someone do the work for them, the center also offers a host of services, including framing, gifts, engraving, custom embroidery, screen printing and sublimation, which allows people to customize just about anything from clothes, bags, mugs and more.

There is plenty of merchandise that people can purchase and engrave, including the miniature sculptures of Sgt. Ted E. Bear; silver, bronze and copper award eagles; various plaques and trophies; as well as personalized name plates and office gifts.

"There are literally hundreds of things people can buy and customize here," she said.

The new room will be open any time the center is open -- Tuesdays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. -- and Varner said that Soldiers are free to come and go as they please when using the room.

Although there is no cost for Soldiers to use their new space, all classes have a cost associated with them, depending on the class, and the center is open to Soldiers, family members, retirees, Department of Defense civilians and contractors.

For more information, call 255-9020.