FORT RILEY, Kan. -- Family members of deployed Soldiers created Valentine's Day-themed care packages for their deployed Soldier as part of the Hearts Apart services for waiting families program at the Custer Hill Bowling Center Jan. 25.

Once a quarter, Army Community Service sponsors an event through the program.

"This gives them a place to come out of the house, meet up with other spouses, be introduced to other spouses and maybe make a spouse connection where they'll have a buddy, if you will, that they'll have something in common: it may be children, might be sports, maybe they might go to another (Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation) event together -- like Cocktails and Canvases," said Sonya Brown, outreach coordinator for ACS.


She said the primary attendees are spouses of deployed Soldiers or those who are separated from their Soldier for 30 days or more due to mission requirements like training or temporary duty.

During the event, spouses were seen mingling with each other and catching up since they the last time they met.

"Primarily this is an event to socialize," Brown said.

Brown said ACS received suggestions on upcoming events. Arts and crafts, she said, was one of the more popular activities.

To assist with the arts and crafts, ACS volunteers brought a variety of supplies for families to use to decorate care packages. A table was filled with ribbons, stickers, foam letters, colored paper, stencils and acrylic paint. Most supplies were Valentine's Day themed.

In addition to arts and crafts, ACS had Military Family Life Counseling table representatives.

The MFLCs were there to assist families in a non-traditional place and help them make a connection with the counselors in a relaxed setting, Brown said. The MFLCs were available to spouses and answered questions about their relationship if things were going sour.

Brown said if the spouse talks to their husband and they're not getting along, the MFLCs are available for the spouse to ask questions and, if needed, set up a meeting when the Soldier returns home from deployment or being away.

Among the participants who attended the event was a mother of four Beatriz Harth, wife of Staff Sgt. Jon Harth, 541st Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 1st Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade. She attended to bring her four children to the event.

"They're very creative," she said when her kids couldn't attend. "They all have their little style and themes. I'll probably just add candy, but I'll let them decide what they want to put in the box. So they can still be a part of it by picking out something to send their dad."

She did her best decorating the box with red and yellow construction paper, Valentine's Day stickers and a "halfway" sign.

Harth said this is the first time she'll send her husband a care package without him knowing.

When she signed up for the event back in December 2017, she said she thought it was an awesome idea to get all the kids involved.

Harth said she encourages families to sign up for the next care package event because everything is provided.

"If you don't know what to send, you can get ideas so you don't have to do all the planning and thinking (because) everything is here for you," she said. "Just come and get inspired."

Brown said the next event within the Hearts Apart Service for Waiting Families Program is March 10 for redeployment.

For more information about the program, call ACS at 785-239-9435.