In collaboration with the Blue Star Families and Spark Adolescent Resources, Scott Air Force Base opened their first ever on base Blessing Box with a ribbon cutting ceremony on a beautiful spring day. The blessing box was built by civil engineering airmen, Lowes in Belleville provided the lumber for the project free of charge, Blue Star Families provided free food to people in attendance and Spark Adolescent brought all of the groups together.
The blessing box is a wooden box on the base that is filled with different necessity supplies, available to be taken anonymously for those in need. Blue Star Families Missouri Chapter Director Tosombra Kimes brought food and supplies to fill up the blessing box. Blue Star Families was created in 2009 and based on the idea of the Blue Star memorials that are scattered around the United States. Director Kimes discussed what they do and why. “We are modeled after the Blue Star Memorials. In 2010 when we began we were still at war. The blue star is the one that you get when you have a service member that is serving in war time. We are more than that though. We support strong communities for our military families. We are a lifestyle organization and we do everything from career programs for spouses and outdoor programs to try to get our families out into the communities. Of course food and security is a top issue so we have a program called ‘Nourish the Service’ and that’s part of our program here. We’ve done several different events here at Scott, we do tons of events. Our last event was in November where we gave out food and feminine hygiene items. Anybody can become a blue star family member. We encourage our civilian neighbors as well as our military families to join. They can be National Guard, they can be reserves. They don’t have to be currently actively serving. We want our veterans to join too. Sign up online at bluestarfam.org and join us. Take advantage of all of these amazing resources we have.”
Commander of Scott Air Force Base, Colonel Chris Robinson discussed issues with increasing necessity costs for people in the United States and how it has affected military families. “As with everything, the military is experiencing the same inflation that everybody in the general community is, everything is going up in price. Some of our younger folks are having trouble making ends meet. Food and security is something that we are worried about.
“Secretary Austin (United States Secretary of Defense) has pointed this out to Congress and there’s been some things being written into law that are going to help us get after that but it’s going to take time for those changes to take effect. This is something that Spark Adolescence saw a need for and thought, ‘we’ll just address it today.’ So they worked with Blue Star Families and Hunt Family Housing who runs our privatized housing here on base and put it right outside of the elementary schools so that the children and families have an easy access point so they can pick up something if they need it. A lot of our folks in the military are pretty proud of what they do and don’t want to admit when they need help. That’s a problem that we are trying to address across the board so this allows them to anonymously pick up things they need and also allow us to drop stuff off to give back to one another.
“Right now we’ve seen the community has donated more than what we can actually put in the blessing box so family housing is going to allow them to store the extra food and then weekly teams of folks that are volunteering will come out and restock the blessing box as needed.”
Robinson discussed how the department of defense food insecure percentage was recently at 24% and how he believes the numbers may be incorrect. “One of the things we have is false reporting. People will be asked, ‘How are you doing?’ and they will say, ‘We’re doing fine.’ It goes back to the pride issue. Those numbers coming from the Department of Defense, I don’t want to call them incorrect because I don’t know where they got them but at least here at Scott what we’re seeing is it’s hard to find good data on that. What we have is more anecdotal data of, we know the folks in the high risk categories. Folks that are single parents, folks that are junior rank and don’t make as much money, the number of kids you have, which increases your rates. Those things that the Department of Defense is doing to get after it with extra pay and incentives, locally on the base what we are trying to do is financial education. How do you balance a checkbook? It’s a sad thing but there’s some people who don’t know how to do that or don’t make financial choices that aren’t the best and so we are trying to help them get after that. But that still doesn’t address their immediate concern, how to feed your family tonight. There have been several initiatives from our local community, this being one of them with the blessing box, but there are several others. When you admit the problem out loud, your people are more likely to admit they are affected by the problem.”
Colonel Robinson feels that the community and people involved in supporting the military have eased much of these complicated problems and that the local communities are a key part of their successes.
“What else could you ask for, when the community reaches out. When our community says they care about our airmen, soldiers, sailors, marines and guardsmen; It’s one thing to say, it’s another thing to do something about it, this community clearly does something about it. That welcoming community makes us want to be here.”