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Volunteering to keeping the families informed

Stacy Morse, Key Volunteer Mentor for the 175th Wing in Baltimore, Md., hands out drill schedule magnets to Maryland Air National Guard members during the December drill. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. David Speicher/RELEASED)

Stacy Morse, Key Volunteer Mentor for the 175th Wing in Baltimore, Md., hands out drill schedule magnets to Maryland Air National Guard members during the December drill. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. David Speicher/RELEASED)

BALTIMORE -- With a goal of keeping families informed, the Key Volunteer Program helps Airmen's families whether their family member is deployed or at home station.

The Key Volunteer Program offers informal peer-to-peer/wingman support to families and is the link between the commander, the unit and the family.

Jeanne Benden, the 175th Wing Airman and Family Readiness Program Manager, described the volunteers who keep families informed, "They are the link to the families. They are the official spokesperson to the family. They are not just there for morale and during deployments. They are there when families need resources. They are the eyes and ears to the command of what is going on in the unit."

"(Key volunteers) are helping with common family issues. Sometimes it is more comfortable for family members to reach out to other family members," said Benden. "They are the voice of the families to the commander. They share the commander's message back to the families and help squash rumors."

They are trained in confidentiality in regards to a member's personal information. "We give them the tools to share with families," said Benden. It is also important in what they should not do: be a counselor, a babysitter or gossiping.

The program has 16 volunteers who have completed the mandatory 12 hours of training. The goal is to have at least one volunteer in each squadron.

Leading the group is Stacy Morse, Key Volunteer Mentor, wife of Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey S. Morse, 175th Maintenance Squadron. She is a mentor for the rest of the volunteers and is appointed by the base commander.

"I just wanted to help other families that are having to juggle a lot when their members are deployed," said Morse.

Morse has been the lead volunteer since February 2012 and volunteering since 2009. "She has the passion for the families and she has the energy and organizational skills. She has really been able to bring a fresh perspective," said Benden.

The key volunteer mentor links up to the commander through the first sergeants. The family readiness program manager is the trainer and makes sure resources are available. They also make sure the key volunteers stays in the family lane and not the military lane.

Morse has both a big Air National Guard family and also at home. They have seven adopted children. They are also foster parents; in total they have been involved in the lives of 22 children.

Good news boards. "When a squadron member has a new baby, marriage or life event it is posted in a common area," said Benden. Stacy has focused on "drilling down to the unit and getting the good news stories out to the families. She is not shy. She is very outgoing, happy to speak in front of a commander and quite comfortable promoting the programs activities and resources."

Morse talked about the volunteers higher visible events, "We help coordinate an annual Easter egg hunt and help with the Christmas party for the children of wing members, and we distribute drill schedule magnets."

"We try to support other organizations in the wing; any events that need assistance with volunteer support. We help any way we can when other groups let us know when they need assistance," she said.

"We would like to have more family events. (Our goal is to get) family members a chance to see other family members that are talked about when they return from drill. We would like to connect family members," said Morse.

"When people get deployed we call the families of that member to let them know they safely arrived," said Morse. "It's basically to let them know they are not forgotten and not alone."

"Although there is a surge of people volunteering when there is a deployment, the key volunteer program is for year round support of families, not just when people are overseas. We are here 24/7, we are not just here while the member is deployed," said Morse.

"After a deployment, people go back to their lives, especially in the Guard. They don't live on the installation. Volunteering on the base is not always one of their priorities," said Benden.

"We are not as deep in volunteers. We are looking to acquire family volunteers to represent every shop with-in the wing. We are aware that there are currently gaps," said Morse.

"We are interested in extended family members. We will take whatever time they have available," she said. "It doesn't matter what rank your member is, we encourage all volunteer efforts. It doesn't matter what level or whether here fulltime," said Morse. If anyone is interested in becoming a key volunteer, they can email Morse at 175wgkeyfamily@gmail.com.

"The type of person that works well for the position is somebody that knows the families of that unit. It should be someone who is from that unit. They need to know the world they live in. They need to know what that commander wants to achieve in that unit," said Benden.

Benden summed up her appreciation for the key volunteers: "The folks that do this, don't get a dime, they get very little recognition. They pour their heart and soul into the program. You ask them to help and they can't do enough. They do it purely for the joy of helping others. They do it because they care."