Military families are always looking for resources to make life a little bit easier. Sometimes we need affordable child care. Sometimes we need cheap family entertainment. Sometimes we just need a little extra support. And it would be nice if we could find all of those resources in one place.
Thanks to the Armed Services YMCA, we can. In fact, the Armed Services YMCA or ASYMCA exists just to make life easier for military families. Through the 150 programs they run around the world, the ASYMCA offers support for servicemembers, military spouses and their children.
The non-profit ASYMCA is a partner organization of the YMCA that provides social services like activities, youth programs and support programs for military families at little to no cost. These programs are aimed at young enlisted military personnel and their families, and there are no membership fees like a typical YMCA. An active military ID card is all that’s required to be members.
What exactly does the ASYMCA do for military families?
Military spouse Darlene Long first heard about the ASYMCA back in 2006 and has taken advantage of the many services it offers, especially for her children.
“The Fort Campbell ASYMCA is partnered with a local church that helps to provide a once monthly meal for the families here,” Long said. “It is open to any ranks. My kids always enjoy it because in addition to food and dessert, they give door prizes at each one.”
The Fort Campbell ASYMCA, which is located on base, has several programs for kids.
“The Little Heroes preschool started in 2010 for 3- and 4-year-old children of deployed soldiers,” said Long. “It has changed some in that it is now open to any military dependent, but priority is still given to deployed and E1-E6. It is two or three mornings a week and is free of charge.”
The summer camp program for 10- to 12-year-olds, the preschool playgroups and the movie and popcorn hours are all free as well.
“They also have a store here where everything is donated and then given away to E1-E5, as well as a ball gown lending closet,” Long explained.
Many military spouses volunteer for the ASYMCA in addition to using the services.
“At Travis Air Force Base, the ASYMCA helped set up a Teddy Watch at the hospital—free childcare during appointments,” said military spouse Tracey. “I both volunteered and used the program. It was amazing!”
Although the availability of specific services may change over time, the satisfaction with the ASYMCA seems to remain the same. Mercedes Welch, another military spouse, called the ASYMCA in Honolulu a blessing.
“When we arrived in Hawaii in 2005, our computer was in transit and I could go there with the four kids to check email and relax while they had snacks and tv,” said Welch. “They also had a lending locker that covered the items MWR didn’t.”
But there’s so much more available at the ASYMCA, including hospital assistance, spouse support services, food services, deployment support, emergency support, computer training classes, counseling, wounded warrior support, health and wellness services, and holiday programs.
Some ASYMCA programs are national, such as Operation Hero, an after school mentoring program for military children in grades one to five who are having difficulties in school. But some programs are specific to certain locations. Individual ASYMCAs offer different programs and services to military families and not all programs are free of charge, so it’s best to contact your local ASYMCA to learn more about how they can help your family.
Want to see if there’s an ASYMCA near you? Click here for a list of their branches and affiliate locations.
Have you ever used an ASYMCA?
-- Heather Sweeney can be reached at Heather.Sweeney@monster.com.
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