By Mr. Kevin Stabinsky (IMCOM)March 26, 2010
Thanks to the Fort Gillem Getaway club and its staff, supporting the troops can be a noble, as well as fun, cause.
On the third Friday of each month, from 8 p.m. until 2 a.m., the Getaway club staff hosts a "Blue Lights in the Basement" old school jam for Soldiers, Family members, Civilian employees and other guests to provide quality entertainment in a friendly atmosphere. As the title suggests, the event caters to the older crowd.
It features a selection of 70s and 80s music spun by DJ Gee Money, an Atlanta-area disc jockey, said Simone Smith, Getaway club hostess.
"This is here to serve the existing community," she said of the U.S Army Garrison Directorate of Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation (DFMWR) sponsored event. "DFMWR carries and supports bases."
Jim Stanyard, Getaway club manager, said the club has been running dance and music nights for about eight years in support of the community.
However, recent advances, such as the ability to advertise online through social networking Web sites, have helped increase knowledge about the program. Additionally, a larger increase in print advertisement in the forms of flyers and posters were distributed.
Such increases were deemed necessary due to the influx of Soldiers coming onto the base, said Stanyard.
"Reservists are doing lot of training here recently, and we want to give them somewhere to go rather than downtown," Stanyard said.
Although Reservists training on post may have been a target for the program, other groups are just as likely to come in and enjoy the good times.
Retired sergeant Terry Hynes heard about the event from a friend and decided it would be a good chance to reconnect with some of his former friends still active with the military.
"I can see people I haven't seen in a while and have a good time, he said. "It's a place to relax and unwind. I have no complaints."
The compliments come from more than just the patrons. The Getaway club staff is also enjoying the revitalization and interest in the club.
"Morale's way up thanks to Jim (Stanyard), who gives lots of support," said Santana Ladson, bar manager.
On average, Stanyard said the event typically attracts between 100 and 125 people. While Stanyard's advertising push may have helped bring the program out into the mainstream, it is the services provided by club staff that keep people happy and coming back.
Patrons looking for an energy boost to get them back on the dance floor can enjoy food, such as fish sandwiches, hot and spicy chicken wings, ribs and smoked sausage, Ladson said. Beverages, both alcoholic and nonalcoholic, are also available for those working up a parched throat.
"We have reasonable prices and a pleasant environment," Ladson said. "Our customers are our family."
"The costs are lower (due to DFMWR) so people can save money," Stanyard added. Admission costs are $3 for ID holders and $7 for non-ID holders.
Natasha Hill, a writer for "Florida Today," said the lower prices were a bonus to everything else she experienced on her visit to the area.
"It was nice to hear old music again. The atmosphere is relaxing and the drinks were pretty cheap," she said. "I'm glad with all going on in the world there's a little bit of escape, a place to relax."
Hill learned of the event through her friend, Eric White, a film journalist with NBC and former Marine Reservist.
As a former member of the military, he said it is important to support the troops. Events like the jam allow him to do so while having a good time with friends.
"It's a good way to fellowship," he said. "It gives an extra dimension to the party, to have fun and be patriotic."
Hill agreed, adding when she first came she didn't know about that the event helped fund recreation activities for Soldiers, but was glad to learn it did.
"It definitely went beyond my expectations," White said.
"It's a no-nonsense environment with less drama than out in the civilian world," Ladson added. "We're all here to have a good time, all adults and a more mature audience."
Besides the jam, the club staff also runs additional events, said Stanyard. The first Friday of each month features a birthday bash where people can enjoy their birthday with cake provided by the club, Stanyard said.
Attendees only need to inform the club and be responsible for their own refreshments. During the workweek, the club staff offers lunch and can accommodate events such as hail and farewells, balls and retirements, Stanyard said.
Additionally, Ladson said, the club staff may try to get karaoke back on the fourth Friday of the month.
Such events will continue to run into 2011, Stanyard said. The Getaway club is on a phase-out timeline similar to First Army's Base Relocation and Closure Act schedule.
"People should supports DFMWR because the money goes right back to the Soldiers," Stanyard said. "We want to take care of our Soldiers and their Families."