by Rebecca Amber
Staff writer 9/30/2015 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
The Friends of the Airman and Family Readiness Center accepted a donation of $2,000 from the Edwards AFB Civilian-Military Support Group during a Hearts Apart luau at the AFRC Sept. 24. (left to right) J.J. Stewart, A&FRC director, Danny A. Bazzell, Civ-Mil community liaison, and members of the Friends of the A&FRC: Master Sgt. Damian Spaits, Senior Airman Ronald Jones, Tech. Sgt. Amanda Esparza and Staff Sgt. Stephanie Artiles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Rebecca Amber)
The Friends of the Airman and Family Readiness Center accepted a donation of $2,000 from the Edwards AFB Civilian-Military Support Group during a Hearts Apart luau at the AFRC Sept. 24. They also received $750 in gift cards from the Antelope Valley Mall."The Civ-Mil Support Group is pleased to be able to provide this small measure of assistance to the families of our deployed service members," said Danny A. Bazzell, Civ-Mil community liaison. "It is fundamental that we not only recognize and applaud the service of our active duty men and women, but that we also recognize the hardships and sacrifices made by their family members who are left here at home to carry on the family's day-to-day activities."Hearts Apart is a program designed to offer support to the spouses and family members of deployed personnel.
Each month, a themed event or outing provides families the opportunity to share a meal and socialize while the children play. September's theme was a luau featuring the Ka Ohana O Keolanani Halau dance group.Bonnie McGee, kumu (teacher) of the Halau, volunteered her time to cook all of the food that evening.The program is not just about having a good time, but about making connections. According to Master Sgt. Damian Spaits, A&FRC readiness NCO, the spouses often have an automatic connection. Then when something does come up, from a leaky faucet to a broken down car, the families know they are not alone."There's going to be someone that they can turn to for help, that might have even gone through that themselves and knows how to overcome that," said Spaits.
The A&FRC also has access to a wide range of resources to address needs as they arise. This might include anything from a short-term financial crisis or housing issue, to addressing stress factors in the home."With these routine and all too frequent deployments, it is putting the children especially at a lot more stress. We've got our military family life counselors and our family life specialist who is trained to help the children deal with the separation of the parent being gone."Spaits added that no deployment is the same and it's important that the resources be available to families every time one member deploys.All of the money put into programs like Hearts Apart is raised through the Friends of the A&FRC.
Donations like the ones received at the luau mean "that we can provide the level of service that I'm very keen on providing to our families," said Spaits. "...I want to provide outstanding food, outstanding service and outstanding entertainment to our families."Tricia E. Granger, Antelope Valley Mall director of marketing, stated that their donation "is our way of saying thank you. The service and dedication that not only the servicemember, but their entire family provide to our country, is immeasurable." Hearts Apart is also open to all spouses and families of personnel stationed at Edwards that are separated. This includes those sent on a long-term remote assignment at another location or on an extended temporary duty assignment.