FORT DRUM, N.Y. (April 8, 2022) -- Adjusting to a new Army installation, a new home and a new community takes time and can often feel overwhelming.
Lexie Morin, who arrived at Fort Drum with her husband in mid-February after a five-day drive from Houston, literally felt lost.
“It was snowing hard the day we got here, and we were driving in circles,” she said. “The maps were not helping, and it actually sent us back out the front gate. We were really lost.”
In addition to acclimating to a North Country winter, Morin said she was experiencing life on an Army post for the first time. They lived off post at their last duty station, where she had family in the area she could lean on.
“So I wasn’t familiar with all the resources that spouses have on post, and I wasn’t really concerned about meeting new people because I had my sister, and all my other family was three hours away in Houston,” Morin said. “This time around it’s completely different for me. I needed to find friends, people I can do things with.”
It was through the Fort Drum Relocation Readiness Program’s Coffee Connections where Morin found a sense of belonging and what it meant to be part of a military community. She met a new friend, joined a sewing group and began volunteering with the English as a Second Language (ESL) program and the Relocation Readiness Program.
“I knew very quickly that the people here were going to help me,” Morin said. “There’s a lot of things to do, and I think anyone can find something if they really want to.”
The Fort Drum Relocation Readiness Program staff hosts Coffee Connections on the first Thursday of every month at the Family Resource Center (FRC), Bldg. 11042 on Mount Belvedere Boulevard.
Scarlett Sharkey, the Relocation Readiness Program manager, said that the monthly social gathering has existed in one form or another at various venues for more than a decade.
“No matter what, it’s like drinking from a fire hose when you get to any new installation,” she said. “How do you find that new friend, that new job, that volunteer opportunity or the services you need? It can be scary, and most of the time you are alone until you get out, and do something, and meet people. Coffee Connections is a way to do that.”
Representatives from across the installation attend Coffee Connections to introduce themselves and their programs, to include Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation; Child and Youth Services; the USO; Family Advocacy Program and the American Red Cross. Senior command spouses also attend to welcome newcomers to Fort Drum.
Rather than assembling attendees in an auditorium or classroom, Sharkey said that the warm, inviting coffee shop-style ambiance that the FRC provides makes Coffee Connections seem more like an informal chat than an Army briefing.
“We want you to feel you are having coffee with new friends,” she said. “And we want you to come back again and again.”
Anna Ostrander, who works in the Relocation Readiness Program, arrived at Fort Drum last October from Alabama.
“People were really welcoming and willing to share a lot of information,” she said.
Ostrander said that she followed a few spouses’ groups on social media, as well as many of the Fort Drum organizations and programs, to stay informed.
“They might share a lot of the same things, but it is a great way to get to know the area and things to do,” she said.
This is Ostrander’s third duty station, and she said that even though she knows she’ll find a Post Exchange, fitness facilities and a veterinary clinic somewhere on post, there are always going to be unknowns.
“Each one is different in their own ways – where things are located, how isolated it is and how much is on the installation versus what you have to go off the installation for,” she said. “You eventually learn the skills to help adjust yourself, but it really is a whole different world when you are first starting out.”
Since she started working in the FRC for the Soldier and Family Readiness Division, Ostrander said that she realized she only scratched the surface of what is available for community members.
“A lot of the spouses who come to Fort Drum are very young, and this is their first duty station,” she said. “They don’t know how to start the process of acclimating and finding what they need. I thought I knew what Fort Drum was about and these are the things they have, but since I’ve been working here I have learned so much more about the different programs, services and so many events I might not have known otherwise.”
Morin said that she hopes other newcomers take advantage of social opportunities such as Coffee Connections to make the most of their experience at Fort Drum.
“My advice to them would be to get to know the people here and the resources that are available to them,” she said. “It’s better if you try to build those connections early.”
To learn more about Coffee Connections and other programs available through the Soldier and Family Readiness Division, visit https://home.army.mil/drum/index.php/about/Garrison/directorate-human-resources/soldier-and-family-readiness-division-sfrd/SFRC, and follow www.facebook.com/Fort-Drum-Relocation-Readiness-Program-171335822906429.