By Amber Avalona-Butler/ParaglideAugust 13, 2010
FORT BRAGG,N.C. - Military separation isn't so isolating thanks to the Army Community Service Hearts Apart program. Although the name suggests a program designed to increase the connection between Families, it's actually a way for Family members to stay active in the Fort Bragg community.
"It's a way for Family to know what's going on while their servicemember is deployed - whether the geographical separation has to do with deployment, an unaccompanied tour, like Korea, or extended temporary duty," said Sherree Jones of the ACS Relocation Readiness Program.
Community organizers and special interest groups contact the ACS Hearts Apart program to promote social events like concerts, workshops and celebrations, which are passed along to members of the Hearts Apart program via email. Registration is free, and members remain on the list until further notice - many spouses take advantage of the events and deals upon their servicemember's return.
According to Jones, it's very easy to feel disassociated from the community if you're not involved, if you don't come to work every day or don't live here. "We just try to keep everyone in the know," she said.
"It's actually to supplement a Family readiness group because we're not going to have specific information about the unit or the Soldiers," Jones emphasized.
Currently, about 500 Families are signed with the Hearts Apart program. Members receive special perks like the recent movie day at Pope Theater, which featured a free showing of "How to Train Your Dragon" for adults and kids. Last summer, over 450 people attended the "Family Appreciation Day" at Smith Lake, complete with hot dogs, popcorn and toys like the sticky wall.
The purpose of Hearts Apart is to ensure Families take full advantage of Fort Bragg's social activities while stationed here, and to introduce them to some of the best parts of Fayetteville. Their mission is closely tied to the Army's goal of supporting Soldiers, Families and civilians with quality of life programs that meet their needs while enabling them to thrive and maintain resiliency.
"It's very nice and very humbling, especially when they ask to stay on the list, even after their servicemember has redeployed," said Jones.
To join the Hearts Apart email list, contact firstname.lastname@example.org and include your name (first name is okay). While email is the preferred contact method for the distribution list, questions can also be directed to Jones at 907-3507.