FORT BENNING, Ga. (July 27, 2018) - To accommodate service members with school-age children, Fort Benning Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) held two back-to-school events July 26 and July 27.

The main event was child and Youth Services' Back-2-School Bash July 27, wherein parents and their school-age children lined up around the block to the Youth Services Campus as early as two hours before the doors opened to pick up free school supplies and meet several of the on-post services available to them.

As a smaller, more intimate event, the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP), Army Community Service, MWR, held a back-to-school luau at Breezeway Pool July 26.

EFMP provides comprehensive support to Family members with special needs. Because loud or busy environments are not always conducive to the wellbeing of some of the exceptional Family members, EFMP invited their members to the smaller scale pool party. A disc jockey played popular songs poolside. When the Family members signed in to the event, they received school supplies and informational material.

"For children with special needs, sometimes a trip to Wal-Mart or what-have-you to buy school supplies can be daunting," said Madelene Celestine, acting EFMP program manager.

"We try to downscale it where they can still have the same fun that other Families have," said Lakeisha McNeal, program specialist with EFMP.

In addition to giving students with backpacks and other supplies, other services were on hand to meet with the parents, including personnel from the Family Advocacy Program, which is committed to the prevention and treatment of family violence, encourages healthy relationships, promotes child safety, and prevents abuse and neglect. Also, there was the New Parent Support Program, which seeks to increase knowledge of child development and to provide connections to the support services that allow parents to become capable caregivers.

"A lot of the events we have for our Families are non-judgmental environments, so the Families can come and relax and enjoy, fellowship with their local community, agencies, and each other," said Celestine. "This gets them geared up to go back to school and gives them some of the supplies that help to take the financial strain away."

The Back 2 School Bash at the Youth Services Campus July 27 provided school supplies in addition to free food - hot dogs, ice cream, drinks, and more. The event put Families in contact with many of the on-post resources available to them. It also connected Family members with some of the off-post organizations and resources in the neighboring Chattahoochee Valley communities.

"Just because you're on post and may be a military dependent, you may be looking for services off post as well," said Tawanna Brown, school liaison officer for Fort Benning. "So we brought together a whole group of valuable resources."

By the time the doors opened to the Youth Services Campus, service members and their Families were lined up along the sidewalk up the street from the building where the event took place.

The first people in line, Keri Wise and her daughter Isabelle Maybee, arrived to the campus at 6:45 a.m., more than two hours before the doors opened.

"Last year, we were the sixth or seventh in line," said Wise, who said she had arrived even earlier the year before.

Wise said besides getting school supplies, she found the event was valuable to network with other military Families.

"Talking to new people from different duty stations, I learned a lot of Family members reach out to each other when we need to," said Wise.

Staff Sgt. Franque Minor, 316th Cavalry Brigade, arrived with his daughter, who is entering the first grade. He had brought his daughter out so they could pick up school supplies and also so they could have fun and his daughter could play in one of the inflatable bounce houses.

"I couldn't ask for anything more," said Minor. "You get free food, free drinks, free entertainment and free supplies."

To learn more about Child and Youth Services at Fort Benning, visit the "Related Links" section on this page.

To learn more about the Exceptional Family Member Program, visit the "Related Links" section on this page.

To see more photos from this event, visit the "Related Links" section on this page.