AMES, Iowa — When the Friendly Four Corners 4-H Club donated $500 to ship care packages to the 656th Transportation Company in Afghanistan, they were doing what they always do — serving their community. The Van Buren County 4-H’ers made an impact, supporting the troops far away, as well as their families here at home.
When the club learned that a former member whose husband was part of the 656th needed donations for postage, “the kids got talking and thought it was worthwhile,” said club leader Michelle Wenke. So they contributed money from recent fundraisers — cutting firewood and serving lunch at local auctions.
The need for such community-minded action was reinforced in January, when the White House announced a wide initiative to address the challenges facing military families. “Strengthening the Military Family: Meeting America’s Commitment” identifies four priorities:
The initiative highlights commitments from various government agencies, including USDA’s continuing partnership with the Department of Defense and the Cooperative Extension Service nationally on family and youth development programs.
In Iowa that commitment includes Operation: Military Kids (OMK). OMK helps communities develop locally based networks to support military kids and their families before, during and after deployment, said Chris Gleason, OMK project director with Iowa State University Extension 4-H Youth Development.
“We want kids to thrive, not just survive, during deployment. It takes many caring adults in their lives to make this happen,” Gleason added.
OMK provides free training and resources for communities as well as school districts, Gleason said. Topics include understanding how the deployment cycle affects children, identifying stress reactions and intervention strategies designed to lessen psychosocial stress caused by deployment, and how to access and use resources to build community-based support networks.
OMK also provides training for ISU Extension staff members so they are better prepared to support military families.
According to Gleason, “Iowa soldiers are serving their country and their families are sacrificing as well. Soldiers can focus on their mission more effectively when they know that their children are safe and supported in their schools and communities.”
Nationally, the 4-H Youth Development Program is engaging youth living on military bases throughout the world. More than 20,000 youth participate in 4-H club programs on military bases and installations around the globe.
Operation: Military Kids is funded by the U.S. Army’s Child, Youth and School Services in partnership with USDA/4-H National Headquarters and the land-grant universities. National and state partners also include the American Legion, Military Child Education Coalition, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, Iowa State University Extension, Iowa Army/Air National Guard, Reserves – Army, Navy, Air, Marine, Coast Guard, Iowa School Counselors Association, Operation Give a Hug and the Iowa National Guard Officers Auxiliary. Information is available online at http://www.operationmilitarykids.org/ or www.extension.iastate.edu/4H/omk/.
[PHOTO] Friendly Four Corners 4-H club