By Sgt. Jennifer SpradlinJanuary 18, 2012
FORT BLISS, Texas -- When Spc. Javad Golphin moved to Fort Bliss with his family a few months ago his household goods shipment was delayed. He worried about having his three small children sleeping on the floor, and with a self-described level of skepticism, turned to the Fort Bliss Junior Enlisted Family Center for help. What happened next, he said, was a true blessing.
"I didn't know what to expect," said Golphin, a medic with B Company, William Beaumont Army Medical Center. "But talking with Miss Nina and seeing how warm she is and that you are not the only person out there who needs help made me feel a lot better. There's no shame in it. This place gave us something to start from rather than starting from ground zero."
Miss Nina, or Nina Carey, is the Junior Enlisted Family Center coordinator, the sole paid employee at the center and a tireless advocate for the military community. She became involved in the center through her volunteer efforts at Fort Bliss while her husband was stationed here. Volunteering, she said, is an important part of military life and sometimes it leads to finding meaningful employment. Four days a week she works to receive, sort and distribute the donations received at the center and plan family-themed classes for military spouses and their children.
Golphin received mattresses and kitchen basics from the free "thrift store" at the Junior Enlisted Family Center. All items are donated from military and local communities and each junior enlisted Soldier or Family member can take up to ten items per day. The items vary from children's toys and clothing to larger items like furniture and household appliances.
"It's a good way to recycle," said Carey, explaining the center is a great alternative to throwing away items a family doesn't need any more. "If somebody doesn't need a stroller anymore they can bring it here, and then someone can get something they can't necessarily afford to buy or allow them to have money for something more important."
The center also features an emergency food pantry where Soldiers (typically the rank of sergeant and below but special exceptions can and have been made) can come for non-perishable food items to tide them over during an unexpected hardship. To receive items from the food pantry Soldiers are required to get a referral from their command, chaplain or Army Community Services.
Food for the pantry comes from Fort Bliss units and community programs. Although the center does holiday-specific food drives, providing 1600 Soldier-Families with a turkey and food basket last Thanksgiving, the need for emergency food is year round. The center welcomes donations of canned food, pasta, cereal and peanut butter. It also stocks baby food and diapers when possible.
Carey said she is touched by the response she gets from Soldiers she has helped.
"When you truly help a soldier that is having a hard time right now and you hand them a box of food and they have tears in their eyes -- that's where I feel like, 'okay, I have done my job for the day,'" said Carey.
The center is looking to get a boost when it moves to the old commissary building later this spring. It will not only increase the space for the thrift store and food pantry but feature a classroom where Carey and the center can continue to hold classes. Carey encourages anyone to volunteer with the center in any capacity they can, be it sorting or stocking or teaching their favorite hobbies. She said a Soldier recently taught a couponing class at the center, and they often have crafts classes.
Carey and the center have made a lasting impact on Golphin.
"This is my third time here. Coming here and seeing Soldiers donate and seeing other Soldiers helping Soldiers makes me want to do something for this center. I want to give back. I can't give donations, but I can give my time," said Golphin.