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Own a Business? Don’t be a Jerk on Social Media

Small business owners are at a disadvantage when it comes to advertising. Marketing materials are expensive. Copy space in newspapers, billboards and magazines is usually out of reach.


So, military spouses, stay-at-home moms and entrepreneurs who run their businesses out of their garage turn to Facebook to spread the word, often with a lot of success.

It’s a great place to tell friends about their new business. It’s a great place for their friends’ friends to spread the word.
It’s also a great place to kill your business if you are not careful with your posts.

Last week, the ugly American I profiled, who ranted on about how she felt she deserved access to the base and credit for living near a base as a civilian, posted her soliloquy on her personal Facebook. The right place for it, realistically.

The problem? She owns her own small business and peddles Thirty-One Gifts everywhere she goes. Between her angry rants she also posts upcoming sales and specials on the bags, luggage tags and lunchboxes.

The bigger problem? A huge percentage of her customer base are the very people she was insulting with her venom-filled posts.
And, she leaves her page open to the public so everyone can see her business advertisements. Now, everyone can also see her nasty, insulting comments as well.

And that, friends, is basic business 101. Don’t be a jerk to your customers. They will walk away. And experienced business owners know it.


I sent an email to the folks at Thirty-One Gifts about the consultant’s behavior and within a matter of minutes, received a heart-felt, deeply apologetic letter. Within hours, I received two more, from two more executives, and a phone call.


Robin Hager, Career and Guideline Support at Thirty-One Gifts, wrote in an email, “We try to remind our consultants that when they post something online, that while they are not employees of Thirty-One Gifts, they do represent us, even though it is not our views, it still impacts us as a company.”

Corporate headquarters immediately spun into damage control mode. The local rep? She continue to spit nails and hate at the very people whose backs she built her local business on.

So as a once loyal customer, I copy and pasted her comments and sent them with an apology letter to my friends who I had turned into her customers over the years. They were disgusted. And passed the information on to their friends.

And with one hate-filled post, this small business owner alienated about 100 potential customers. Did it kill her business overnight? No. But eventually, it might.

The National Federation of Independent Business offers a list of dos and don’ts for using a personal Facebook page to promote a small business.
Number four on the list: “There’s no one way to use Facebook. You could start by posting occasional business updates, in case someone ever needs your service, and gauge reactions to them. Personal interests are fine, but avoid posting anything that might turn readers off.”


And send customers away.

Own a small business? Either clean up your personal social media or do not include customers and business associates on your pages.


And if you think your personal opinions and beliefs are something that can’t close your doors, think again.
The families behind the television juggernauts Duck Dynasty, cancelled after the family’s rants on their personal views angered viewers, and 19 Kids and Counting, which is now facing the same fight, might tell you otherwise.

 

Go Team Go! Families are the Best Teammates During Deployment

I took my 3-year-old to her first soccer practice last month. 

It was the little toddler team on the Navy base. Other than ballet, it’s the first organized activity she’s ever done. And it’s definitely the first team sport she’s ever done.

First, the coach rallied them all together and made them pick a team name and taught them a quick cheer. I heard “Go Heroes!” the rest of the way home and on into the following morning.  She loved soccer, even if she still had absolutely no idea how the game was played. She just loved the idea of being part of a team.

And so, after I got my little soccer player and her sister tucked into bed that night, I sat down and exhaled deeply and thought, “Phew! We survived another day of deployment.” And I wasn’t referring to the royal “we,” either. I was literally talking about my two girls and I. We had lived through another day of practice and meals and work and responsibilities and wonky appliances, all without the help of the man of the house. While it was nothing knew, we are at that point where every day survived without broken limbs is an achievement.

So, yes, we did it. My little team of two toddlers, an old dog, and me. It’s funny to think that that’s how I survive. That I carry my girls through this hard time. And sometimes, they carry me.  They are the reason I sleep soundly without him. They are the reason I am busier than busy. They are the reason I get up before the sun every morning.  They’re my teammates. They are in this with me till the end.

While we often don’t wear matching jerseys, and we don’t really have a team cheer, other than, “You have to wear underwear to the dinner table,” we’re still a team.

And while these last few months have been rough, I couldn’t have picked better teammates to survive it with.

December Job Fairs

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. But don’t let the hustle and bustle of the holidays sidetrack your job search.
If you are still jobless, make sure you spend time every day working on finding that job, whether you are sitting down and searching online job sites, filling out applications or hitting the pavement.


There are not many job fairs in December as the holidays approach. And most likely, they may have lighter attendance as people turn their attention toward the celebrations happening around them. Who knows, this may be your chance to stand out in the smaller crowd and win over the recruiters.


Remember to click on the links under the job fair listing and register as soon as possible. If you are not interested in spending your December weekends hobnobbing with recruiters instead of party-goers, then make a resolution you can easily keep: check the 2015 job fair listings now and sign up for one!


For a full list of military spouse job fairs, visit http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/events/hiringfairs

Dec 3
Jacksonville, NC
http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/jacksonville-hiring-fair

San Jose, CA
http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/san-jose-hiring-fair

Dec 9
Recovering warrior and caregiver virtual job fair
http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/recovering-warrior-caregiver-virtual-job-fair

Dec 10
San Antonio, TX
http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/san-antonio-hiring-fair

Dec 11
Las Vegas
http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/las-vegas-veteran-job-fair

Jan 8
Charleston, SC
http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/charleston-hiring-fair
Virtual Job Fair
http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/virtual-job-fair-4

 

Job Searching and Facing the Financial Reality

By Holly Bates

Tick-tock …

Tick-tock …

That’s the sound of the clock in my dining room each day I spend online looking for a federal job and waiting for CPAC to contact me about my dream job, which, at this point, has become any job.

Just when it looked like I needed to get off the computer and put myself out there, I finally received an email from USAJOBS saying I was referred for a job on post. It wasn’t through PPP-Spouse and I didn’t receive the prompt from CPAC to apply for this job. 

It is one I stumbled upon while perusing local positions through USAJOBS. In part, this is because I willingly applied for the job knowing it is a lower grade than I originally wanted.  But, whoohoo! It’s one step closer! 

Finances are getting tighter as the holidays loom closer and closer. My comfort threshold is being pushed, making me nervous each day that I don’t have an income to contribute. I’m one step closer, but now I must anxiously await a call from the hiring manager for an interview. Or, hope I just get a call saying, “Congratulations! We’d like to offer you the job.”

Technically, hiring managers do not have to do interviews. It’s my experience, however, they do it because (a) they get a feel for whether or not the applicant will be a good fit in the office and so that they can verify the information provided on the résumé is correct. 

Let’s face it, every Employment Readiness Program office and personnel specialist advises applicants to copy and paste the job description on FASCLASS into their résumés. Even my hubby came home from his ACAP (Army Career and Alumni Program) class on Applying for a Federal Job talking about FASCLASS. 

In a funny side note, my hubby came home all excited to tell me about FASCLASS. He had just learned it was an awesome resource for writing a federal résumé and wanted to share it as a resource to help me. I had to tell him I already knew all about FASCLASS. In fact, I used it regularly in my job as an admin officer for hiring actions.

What is FASCLASS? 

FASCLASS is a paperless automated record keeping system, which standardizes and simplifies classification and staffing processes while simultaneously providing current position descriptions and organizational structures. It allows you to search a position description (PD) by position title, pay plan, series and grade. In addition to the job announcement, FASCLASS is a useful resource for determining the duties and responsibilities of a job.

And, it is a useful guide to use when writing a résumé. Not only does it include common language used by the USAJOBS automated application system, it may act to remind you of your duties and responsibilities in a previous job. 

A word of caution about simply copying and pasting word-for-word from the FASCLASS PD:  you’ll need to back it up with evidence and actual experience. I’ve heard stories from hiring managers about applicants applying for different positions within the same organization using different PDs copied word-for-word. In other words, they were caught lying about their actual experience.

In the meantime, I haven’t just been sitting in front of the computer all day. While I wait to hear about this new on-post job, I still have a household to maintain. More importantly, I’ve been adding to my résumé through volunteerism. My biggest volunteer commitment is through scouting. I was this year’s popcorn kernel for my son’s Cub Scout pack, meaning I managed thousands of dollars in sales for the group. If there are any other Kernels or Cookie Moms out there, you know the time and responsibility it takes to be a fundraising chair. 

As popcorn kernel, I had many tasks. It was my job to coordinate approval to sell popcorn at various locations on-post and at a local Walmart, plan for and procure the necessary popcorn inventory, staff these show-n-sells (as the BSA calls them) with scouts and parent volunteers, provide training and encourage door-to-door sales, calculate each scout’s contributions to account for various prize levels and threshold’s for annual/monthly pack dues reimbursement, and pickup/distribute the final door-to-door inventory to each scout. I am quite proud of the fact that my efforts resulted in a 250 percent increase from last year in funds raised through popcorn sales. As a result, my efforts were recognized by our local council. 

I was recently asked by our local district executive to become the district chair for the 2015 Friends of Scouting fundraising campaign. I expect this to be challenged by this responsibility, but I’m hoping it will increase my visibility within the community as well as provide additional networking opportunities and possibly lead to a full-time paying job.

As time ticks by and stressors increase, one thing keeps me sane - running. I met my running partner at the 7-mile marker of the Soldier Half-Marathon and ran the last 6.2 miles with her to the finish line. And now we’re training for my first official 13.1 miles - the Red-Nosed Half-Marathon in January. 

I never thought I’d be able to run 10K on a regular basis let alone train for a half-marathon. Yet, this is exactly what I’m doing. In addition to being a natural stress relief, running keeps me in shape. So, when I do get that call for an interview, those suits currently just collecting dust in my closet will still fit me (hopefully, even be a little loose). 

It will be a great start to 2015! 

Finally, the Help That Millions of Family Members Deserve While Caring for Wounded Veterans

Community organizations, legislation and millions of dollars in aid from private corporations have been created to help wounded military warriors.

But the family members, neighbors and friends who often work around the clock to care for them and their injuries serve almost silently, with little aid. A study earlier this year by Rand Health estimates that 5.5 million people work tirelessly across the nation to care for our wounded - these are non-health professionals who are not receiving pay. The group estimates that 20 percent of those people are caring for veterans who served after the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

And these people, are exhausted.

Key points of the study:

- Post- 9/11 military caregivers miss, on average. 3.5 days of work per month, adding to their financial strain

- Nationwide this equals $5.9 billion in lost wages

- The risk for depression for these individuals is four times that of non-caregivers

- More than 30 percent of these caregivers lack health care coverage for their own medical needs

November is National Family Caregivers Month. It may be time to pause and see what we can do for those who continue to care for our warriors after the parades and homecomings are over.

Here are some resources for caregivers of military veterans:

VA Caregiver Support  

http://www.caregiver.va.gov/  

The Department of Veterans' Affairs has an internal department that focuses solely on individuals providing care to veterans. That department can match caregivers with a support coordinator who will help them find out what services they are eligible to receive and what other resources are available. Professionals here will also help caregivers enroll their veteran in an adult day health care center if the veteran is eligible and link them with VA medical staff who will come to the house for medical care.
This is especially helpful for veterans who are unable to travel easily.

Every Wednesday this month, the VA is hosting meditation activities for caregivers. Participants join the program via phone. Remaining sessions are Nov. 19 and Nov. 26. Caregivers are invited to call toll free 1-800-767-1750. When prompted, enter access code 73687 then press the # key.

Military caregivers can also call the support line at any time, 1-855-260-3274.

Caring for Military Families, The Elizabeth Dole Foundation

http://elizabethdolefoundation.org/hiddenheroescoalition/empowering-caregivers-2/#sthash.s1GW4178.dpbs

Organizers at the Elizabeth Dole Foundation have taken the words of the Rand study to heart. The organization hosts training sessions, which caregivers can attend in person or online, connects caregivers with their peers through a national support network and helps caregivers and veterans search for jobs. Click on the website above to learn more about the available programs.

Base Neighbor Demands Credit for Putting Up with Military

Let me introduce you to the ugly American.

She was sitting at the gate of a major military installation last weekend, waiting to get a pass to attend a birthday party behind the gate. Apparently, she had had enough and blurted her frustrations out on Facebook.

Sure. Sitting at the gate stinks. New security measures have been put in place at gates around the nation meaning the wait to enter could stretch to an hour or more. I get it. It is frustrating. I agree. The largest military on the planet surely must be able to find a way to streamline the gate system.

It’s what she shouted across the internet next that made my blood boil.

 They “have been sitting there for 25 minutes now. They just called #18 and [they are] #31. This is beyond ridiculous. Tell me why it's okay for me to teach military children and work and live side by side with military families but we can't get onto post without all of this??!!! It was bad enough before with the vehicle checks. I think local residents should be treated with a little more respect from our military. We put up with a LOT because we live next to Ft. [***], you'd think we would be treated a little better than this. I'm disgusted and furious!!!!!”

Are you kidding me?

Her friends offered advice, through obviously gritted teeth.

They politely suggested her that those who invited her on post should have warned her about the security changes. Others reminded her, “They put their lives on the line for us the least we can do is be willing to be inconvenienced a little by getting a pass or waiting in a line.”

Normal people in a rage would have stopped. Not this ugly American. She continued to demand to be allowed on base. The rules didn’t work anyway, she said. She deserved credit, she said.

“One thing that does annoy me is the lack of respect for NON-military families around here. I've lived here for 14 years and used to drive on post as easily as driving to Walmart. [My husband] has lived here his entire 47 yrs. We've seen a lot of people come and go, we've prayed and cried with and for families who've lost loved ones. I've waited at [****] a few times for my brother to return from deployment. We are very much military connected, but because we don't have that status and an ID card, we don't get any credit for any of it. Maybe that's why I'm so annoyed at the ridiculous system of getting on post.”

Ok, I’ll back up for a minute. Yes, I’m sure she has friends in the military. She says her brother has served. Certainly, she is part of the military support system.

This, however, in no way, shape or form, affords her the same benefits that are granted to actual military members and their spouses. That means no ID card, no base access.

Did she stop to think for one second that combat veterans who have been wounded but did not retire also do not have ID cards and also have to stop at the gate for a pass? And sit in that very long line.

Even as a military spouse, I’ve been stopped at the gate. My car has been searched. I’ve been turned away, with an ID card. It’s called national security measures.

Mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters of soldiers killed in action don’t have ID cards either. They will be sitting in the same line if they need to come on base to tend to their dead relatives’ paperwork.

But that doesn’t matter to this gal. She puts up with so much. She is entitled. She deserves to waltz onto base without anyone questioning her. She has lived here the longest! That makes her special, darn it!

Here’s the thing, sweetie. If you want “credit” as you say for living the military life, than actually join and live the military life. Yes, having a brother, cousin, son, neighbor serving in the military is not easy. Of course you are considered part of their military family.

But that is very different from serving on the front lines or being the spouse at home trying to hold it together.

When is the last time this gal gave birth while watching on CNN the town her husband was fighting in get blown to smithereens? When was the last time she got a phone call from her husband for the first time in three weeks only to have the satellite signal drop two minutes into the call? How many times has she moved in the last 10 years? How many times have her children switched schools, been made fun of for being the new kid or came home and announced they didn’t want to make friends because they knew they were going to move anyway?

It is hard to have extended family in the military. But being the actual military member or the spouse means dealing with a reality that most civilians could never imagine, and that includes this gal and other extended family members.

And I have yet to come across a military spouse worth her salt who demanded credit for the things she has done. Military families serve out of duty and honor. They do not demand credit in a hasty, nasty Facebook post.

The mere fact that she would suggest that she deserves the same or more respect for her role in the military community than a military spouse or service member is selfish and grotesque.

I am disgusted. I am furious.

This, my friends, is exactly the type of person we do not want and do not need in our military community or in our support systems. This type of person, who feels entitled to have all the benefits of being military without ever actually serving in the military or as a spouse, is the same as the person who wears medals they never earned.

 In her rage, she reminded her Facebook readers that “after today, all invitations to events on post will be respectfully declined. Parties, concerts, fairs, runs, etc. will not be attended by me and mine and I will laugh when I see events advertised as ‘open to the general public’.”

Trust me sweetie, after that rant, you’re not welcome.

Military = Family

No matter how old I get, being away from home for any holiday makes me a little homesick. My children’s birthdays are no different.

Although we are lucky enough to have some family members who are able to travel to us for some occasions, not having the big extended family birthday parties I grew up with pulls at my heart strings a little bit.  I do not want to have my sweet kiddos miss out on anything because of the path we chose to live.

And that is this always changing, hurry up and wait military life. Being so far away from family, happy celebrations are always a little bitter sweet and tend to feel like something is missing.

This year we planned a very last minute “Big Boy” Bowling party for our son. My husband was waiting on TAD orders around the big birthday (of course!) and I couldn’t get a range of dates from him to actually plan the party ahead of time. So with one week notice, we decided to plan a slightly over the top party at our local bowling alley.

With a pending work trip, the possibility of the solo parent gig and family in town, having a get-together outside of my home seemed ideal. Show up, have fun and leave.

Easy right?

Hosting 13 kids all under age 5 was slightly chaotic, I will admit. But as we gathered to sing Happy Birthday to my son I realized how many wonderful people came out to celebrate his big day with us and just how blessed we are to have this support network.

The smile on my son's face as he watched his friend’s sing to him was priceless. It made all of the chaos of the day and last minute prep worth it. My friends chose to spend their day of precious family time with us, celebrating my lovable little man.

One friend had just returned home from a deployment and the family was still transitioning to being a family again. Another family was awaiting the very close homecoming of her Marine from Afghanistan. One friend was rocking the solo parent thing with her four kiddos. Not to mention the multiple new babies in the group.

And it was after church on a Sunday during football. Huge deal! I was so humbled and grateful at that moment that so many people would spend their time with us. 

My kiddos may miss their extended family but they will never lack in love and support in their lives. No matter where we go in this crazy military world of ours, we will never be alone. There will always be someone who understands what it is like to throw a birthday party without your family nearby. To have your husband away on your anniversary year after year. To deliver your child away from family. To go through deployments back to back. To move every two years. To sit in the ER with a sick child by yourself. There is always another military family who understands.

Although there were some very important family missing from our celebration today, we found joy.  We are surrounded by people who have become our family  and I feel so grateful for that.  

Once again, our Marine Corps family steps in whenever we need it.

Websites we love: Military Funeral Honors

https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/mfh/

It’s the topic no one wants to talk about; especially not the 20-something wife of a soldier.

Funeral arrangements. Not a happy topic, not an easy topic, but at some point, everybody has to face this reality. That day will be easier if you have some preparation.

And military funerals are quite a production. They are gut-wrenching and awe-inspiring all at once. And our personal opinion is that every single veteran who has served deserves the full honor afforded to them.

For the grieving family, that can be a lot to organize. Especially if you do not live near a national or state cemetery where many of the traditions are already arranged and waiting.

You may be decades away from worrying about making such arrangements, but it is worth taking a look at the Department of Defense’s office website that details military funeral honors.

The site outlines who is eligible for the honors, please note military spouses and close friends, family and children are not eligible for the ceremony though spouses may be eligible to be buried in military cemeteries even if they pass before their military member. It also outlines the basic duties that the law requires the closest military unit to supply: the play of Taps, flag folding, flag presentation.

The military is able to offer other elements of the ceremony such as a color guard and rifle detail but those additions often depend on where the service member is buried and if those units are located nearby and available.

More grandiose gestures, such as a military fly-over or burial at sea, have very specific requirements and are at the discretion of each military branch.

You can even check the map of national and state cemeteries that are spread out across the country. Arlington Cemetery is perhaps the most well-known but it is not the only national cemetery. There are a total of 131 national cemeteries in 40 states where veterans can be laid to rest.

And, veterans who are buried in national cemeteries are laid to rest, for free. No cost for the plot, stone or service.

It is important to note that gravesites here cannot be reserved in advance. Have your veteran tell you their preference of burial locations, their first choice, and a backup in case the cemetery has become full over the years and is no longer accepting burials. 

At Least He's Not Getting Shot At

Today is day number one of this, “let’s live apart for 8 months while we fight for our foster daughter” thing we’re going through. It sucks. It’s hard. It feels like someone sucked the light out of my little world, and even worse, it’s raining. How cliché is that? But after all the times he’s left, I just feel numb to it all.

I always give myself one “wallow day” when he leaves for an extended time. I let myself eat whatever the heck I want, I watch horrid movies, and don’t put on makeup. Basically I feel whatever needs to be “felt” so I can get up tomorrow like the butt-kicking army wife I am. Of course, when you have five kids at home, “wallow day” looks a lot like laundry day. Regardless, today just kind of … well … sucks.

I’m cranky, and a little numb, and generally assessing the status of our life, and yet, within 12 hours of him leaving, I heard my first, “Well, at least he’s not being shot at.”

So. Not. Helpful.

This is not a deployment. Deployments are soul-sucking wretches where fear is your constant companion. This is most definitely not that. But this hardship demands to be felt as well. It might not be the fear of never seeing Jason again, but it’s a different kind – the kind that we’re giving up our dwell time before the next deployment. My fears aren’t that he won’t come home, they’re so much broader than that.

He hasn’t even been home 9 months. Am I even used to him being here? When we’re finally together, whole as a family, will he immediately deploy? Will we both be too set in our independent ways? What if this is the only time we would have had together? What if it’s all for nothing? No, this is not a deployment – it’s another beast entirely, and reminding me that his physical safety isn’t at risk. Well, that’s not making me feel better.

As military spouses, we endure separations and hardships that civilian families do not. While this makes us stronger, maybe it also makes us more callous, less able to sympathize because our empathy has been so abraded that we only think in worst-case scenarios. Our pain tolerance is fearfully, stoically high. But maybe what we’re losing is the ability to see that while something may not reach a ten on our pain-scale, it’s sure up there on someone else’s.  

Every spouse is going to hit a day one of something they’ve dreaded. Maybe it’s a TDY that hits over a birthday or a holiday. Maybe it’s a hardship tour, or even a deployment. Chances are, if you’ve been around the military long enough, you’ve had it worse than someone else. But that doesn’t mean that what they’re going through isn’t valid, isn’t increasing their pain tolerance.

Perhaps, in the walls we’ve built, we’ve lost a little perspective. Heck, I know that I have. When my sister’s husband went away on business for two weeks, I had little to no sympathy besides to raise my eyebrows and think, “welcome to the slightest taste of my world.” Was that the right response? Heck no. But I’ve grown so accustomed to going a year without Jason that two weeks seemed like a pinprick next to open heart surgery. Maybe that’s just what happened to me.

We’ve been through much worse. We’ve endured four deployments, one of which sent him home seriously wounded. We’ve been through times where our only communication came on MRE post cards sent from the Iraq/Syria border. We’ve been through solo PCS’s and too many tough re-integrations. But that doesn’t lessen the utter crappiness of what this is now – our choice.

Yes, Jason is gone, and we’re now living separately, fighting for the smidgeon of a chance to keep our family whole. No, it’s not fun. Yes, it comes with a unique set of challenges. Nope, it’s not a deployment.

Maybe you’re right, and I should simply look on the bright side that he’s not being shot at – but my mind automatically jumps to add, “this time.” Because I’m jaded just like so many other “lightly salted” spouses. But this experience is teaching me that it’s not always worst-case scenario. My pain meter today is at a 5. It’s hectic, I miss him, and I’m pretty sure my dog is going to rebel if I stick this cone-of-shame on his head one more time. But it’s day one. I can call him when I want to, or even buy him a ticket home for Thanksgiving.

And as it’s been said … at least he’s not being shot at.

When the Paycheck Doesn't Stretch Far Enough: Community Services are in Place to Help Military Families

Deployment is very stressful on families.

But for some families, especially those in the lower enlisted ranks who sometimes struggle to make ends meet, dealing with deployment while struggling with financial difficulties makes life  all the more taxing.

A family's private struggle is a concern for the entire military because that distress can affect the service member and how they perform on their mission, said a Navy command financial specialist. To help alleviate the stress, a wealth of private, public, local, national and government resources exist to help families in need, on both a short-term and long-term basis.

And despite popular belief, coming to the command with a stack of bills, an empty wallet and hungry children won’t get you in trouble, he said. They are there to help you set a budget and assist in sorting out a solution if you have a financial problem. Contacting the command is the best way to tap into all the resources available to military families.

They can help you sign up for government programs, especially if you are pregnant or currently have children, as family size often contributes to the eligibility for assistance. The command doesn’t want a service member deployed while their children and a spouse worry about how to afford diapers and food. So, it is part of their job to make sure the family has the resources they need.

Here is a look at some of the larger assistance organizations that military families can turn to for help.


Service Relief Societies

Each branch has its own relief society. They are a great resource for a short-term problems or emergency situations. They often offer small loans or grants that can help pay a bill or will book a plane ticket for an unexpected death in the family or another emergency. You don’t need command support to seek their help, either. And, they can be found on all major military installations. They also often host budgeting classes and couponing programs, and most offer some kind of “Budgeting for Baby” class, where they supply expecting mothers and fathers with financial information, as well as lots of necessities – like sleepers and diapers and blankets – for the new babies for free.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Known informally as “food stamps,” the SNAP program provides financial assistance for families who need help buying food. Eligible families have to pass an income test, though Combat Pay, Imminent Danger pay, and Hostile Fire pay don’t count as part of the income you report when deciding if you’re eligible for SNAP. Most families need to be at or below the federal poverty line to qualify, with deductions for things like housing and childcare. But families living on a military installation also don’t count their housing allowance toward their income when applying. Each state runs their own program, so you can use the SNAP map to find out where to apply. (http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/outreach/map.htm)

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infant, and Children

WIC provides food supplements for women and children under age 5 who are eligible, i.e., are considered low-income and in need of nutritional assistance. Many military families are eligible because most states consider housing and cost-of-living allowances exempt, plus in some instances combat and hazardous duty pays are exempt, as well. WIC also provides nutrition and breastfeeding education, for free. Like SNAP, WIC has state agencies through which you apply. http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/wic/WICSADirectorsContacts.pdf

Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance Program

The voluntary FSSA program, is only open to active duty and reservist families and helps increase a military family’s income so that they don’t need to be reliant on SNAP benefits.  Eligibility depends on income and family size, with a maximum allotment of $1100 a month. You complete a Web application to determine eligibility and submit through your command.  You have to re-apply yearly.

The National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program

Like WIC, many military children are eligible as most cost-of-living stipends, like housing allowances, are exempt when calculating annual income and determining a family’s eligibility for free breakfast, lunches and snacks at schools. You apply through your state agency. http://www.fns.usda.gov/office-type/child-nutrition-programs

Non-Profits

With more than 900 non-profits working with the military community, there are lots of avenues to find help. And specific help, at that, said Simone Velasquez Hoover, the executive director of the southeast branch of Operation Homefront.

Operation Homefront is a great resource for families because they have so many volunteers near and at so many military installations that, if they don’t already have a program to meet your need, they can help you find someone who can, Hoover said.

Still, what they do offer is vast. Operation Homefront alone provides emergency financial assistance grants with proof of household income. They can help provide food, health care, travel expenses, necessary furniture and help moving in times of need.

They also provide housing for the families and caregivers of Wounded Warriors, as well as give baby showers filled with goodies for expectant mothers with deployed spouses. They also help provide photographers and homecoming celebrations for deserving commands and military families.

They do toy drives for the children of junior service members, as well as back-to-school programs to outfit military children with backpacks and supplies for the entire academic year.

“It’s truly an honor serving such a unique community,” Hoover said.

And they aren’t the only ones. The Salvation Army and United Way, for instance, often provide similar services on a local level, often with little to no eligibility requirements for assistance.

Local Resources

Churches and local organizations often provide free assistance for families in need, no questions asked.

Joann Smith, certified nurse-midwife, runs a children’s clothing closet in Woodbine, Ga., at her midwifery practice.  She has military families who use the service because she’s located and serves several different military installations within a 90-minute radius. They simply come and get gently used, donated clothing and donate back when they can.

Lots of churches allow entrance to their soup kitchens or food pantries with proof of address or a pay stub. And most command support teams and family readiness groups will have access to a list of local resources within a reasonable radius of the military installation if you ask.

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