FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. -- Thirty years of compassion were recognized on Sunday in a celebration to honor the Fort Huachuca Widowed Support Center's contribution to area widows and widowers.

Located just before the Fort Huachuca main gate entrance, the corner building with orange doors has been the center's home since 1983. From providing food on the day of a funeral to offering survivor resources, the center's volunteers handle it all. Widowed persons of all ages from all branches of the service, regardless of rank, and civilians are assisted.

Volunteers also aid those seeking to ease their spouse's transition to life as a single person. "They tell us, 'I'm dying. What does my wife need to do?" said Widowed Support Center President Barbara Adams. "We have a packet we give them so when it occurs, the survivor knows what to do and where to go," Adams stated.

The center's community support reaches beyond its primary mission of helping widowed persons. Through its Critter Program volunteers clean donated dolls and stuffed animals and provide them to local organizations. As a non-profit it welcomes donations of all kinds, not simply cuddly creatures.

The center, which operates through the Fort Huachuca Chaplain Activities Office, was the vision of founder Betty Cottrell who wanted to create a place of support for widowed persons. "When they started this organization nothing like it existed," said Adams. Cottrell and fellow early organizer, Wanda Otterholt, spent a year lobbying the Department of Defense for support of the concept and meeting with fort officials. Their efforts paid off when the center finally opened in 1981 in a smaller facility on post.

Remarkably, the center provides its depth of services solely through word of mouth and with a volunteer team that is dramatically less than the 48 it started with 30 years ago. "We had seven people at our meeting last week," said Adams. "We need volunteers," she continued. "But they must be widows. We want someone who has been through it; someone who knows what these people are going through and understands," Adams stated.

"I tell people this is a place where they can laugh, they can cry, they can complain, and there's always a hug," said Adams.
The Widowed Support Center is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. -- 2 p.m. For more information, call 533.3807.