By Lisa R. RhodesJuly 28, 2011
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. - In 1965, the Army established Army Community Service to assist commanders in reducing conflicts between a Soldier's family responsibilities and duty requirements.
On Friday, staff members from Fort Meade's ACS celebrated the organization's 46th birthday by sharing cake, ice cream and program information with military families at Picerne Military Housing neighborhood centers.
"We felt that it's a part of our mission to get the word out about who we are and what we offer," said Cathy Ferran, director of ACS.
ACS offers a variety of comprehensive services in 14 different program areas ranging from family advocacy and volunteer services to financial readiness and employment. The services are available to all active-duty military personnel, their families and retirees.
The ACS staff includes 25 full-time government employees and five contractors. Located at the Community Readiness Center at 830 Chisholm Ave., ACS shares the facility with the Navy Fleet and Family Support Center and the Airmen and Family Readiness Program.
Ferran said the Army Family Convenant, unveiled by the Army in October 2007, is central to the ACS mission. The covenant institutionalizes the Army's commitment to provide Soldiers and families -- as well as personnel from other military branches -- a quality of life commensurate with their level of service and sacrifice to the nation.
The covenant also ensures that improvements are made in family programs, health care, housing, child and youth services, recreation, education and employment opportunities.
Currently, Fort Meade's ACS offers several new programs for service members concerned about their finances; first-time fathers; and military families new to the installation.
The Credit Score Clinic is offered at ACS every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. by appointment for active-duty service members and their spouses who want to review their credit score and credit report with a Financial Readiness Program counselor.
FICO credit scores, devised by the Fair Isaac Corporation, are available at no charge to active-duty service members and their spouses through a partnership between the Finra Investor Education Foundation and the Department of Defense.
"It's been great," said Ryan Yarnell, the personal Financial Readiness Program specialist at ACS. "People really appreciate it."
Yarnell said the military often reviews credit reports for negative information to determine security clearances. Landlords, employers and car insurance companies also have been known to review credit reports and credit scores.
In March, Denise Hamlin-Glover, a home visitor to new parents on post, started Dads 101, a class and support group for expecting and first-time fathers.
The class is offered every Monday from 9 to 10 a.m. at ACS and is geared to men who are anticipating the birth of a child and fathers of children age 3 and younger.
Hamlin-Glover, who is also a marriage and family therapist, facilitates the group that covers a wide range of topics including how to feed, bathe and change a newborn's diaper; how to support one's spouse; and dealing with the stress of becoming a new parent.
The class, which is also open to single fathers and fathers with older children, gives men the opportunity to share their experiences and learn tips from their peers.
Hamlin-Glover said a lot of attention is given to mothers, but sometimes fathers are overlooked. They may have a lot on their shoulders trying to balance work and family.
Service members and families who are new to Fort Meade are introduced to the installation through Start Right, a newcomer's orientation held every Wednesday from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at ACS.
The daylong seminar, which began in May, gives participants an overview of the military services and brief history of Fort Meade. Representatives from various directorates and tenant organizations present a synopsis of their programs and services.
Ferran said celebrating ACS's birthday at the neighborhood centers inspired the staff to be more proactive in reaching out to military families.
"We're here to support the community," Ferran said.