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Single parents band together for resources, voice

People in uniform sit around a table

Single parents gather together at the base chapel to form a new group called, “Single Parents Who Serve,” on Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Nov. 5, 2018. This group will help address the challenges single parents face and provide support to group members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tammy L. Reed)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --

Military parents juggle deployments and temporary duty, work schedules which conflict with their children’s daycare hours, soccer practices and other after-school activities. Toss in doctor’s appointments, a childs sick day and serving healthy dinners on a budget, and it can spell stress for parents.

 

If you’re a single parent, it can be hard when you have no one to share the joys of parenting or the responsibilities of daily life.

 

Now, help is here.

 

On Nov. 5, eight single parents from various units gathered at the base chapel to eat pizza and discuss resources and support they need from the Air Force and one another.

 

While attending a Key Spouse meeting where participants addressed issues they dealt with as spouses and parents, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mellonie Jones, 19th Airlift Wing Protocol NCO in charge, leaned over to U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Justin Strain, 19th AW command chief, and told him that single parents have those issues, too, but they don’t have a voice.

 

He advised her to contact the Airmen and Family Readiness Center to establish that voice. She did, and they put together “Single Parents Who Serve,” a group that will help address the challenges single parents face.

 

“Single Parents Who Serve’s sole purpose is that we have some kind of support because we are doing it by ourselves,” Jones said.

 

At the group’s first meeting, Jones distributed surveys to gather information from the participants on what they needed. She also explained what she hopes will happen as the organization grows.

 

“We’re here to network and support each other,” she said. “And, we want to have different speakers come in to talk about the resources and programs available to us, as well as have events throughout the year that single parents can attend with their kids.”

 

The group’s first events are Breakfast with Santa and a Santa’s Workshop, at the dining facility Dec. 8 from 8-10 a.m.

 

“The whole idea is a traditional breakfast with kids and Santa, but in addition, we’re going to partner with Airmen in the dorms who will help put together toys you don’t have time to, and possibly wrap gifts as well,” Jones said.

 

Participants who come for breakfast with the toy they need put together will give it to Santa’s elves for a ticket to trade in later when the toy is done. During the breakfast, children can sit on Santa’s lap for a picture. If parents secretly give Santa a gift to give their child, he will pull that gift from his bag for them as they talk.

 

After discussing the event, the parents had a lively discussion, which included childcare, shift work, family plans, deployments, working with their units, and what they could use from Single Parents Who Serve.

 

A single parent for 10 of the 15 years of her daughter’s life, Senior Master Sgt. Anngela Robinson, 314th Maintenance Group maintenance operations superintendent, felt the group was a long time coming.

 

“We needed this years ago,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of challenges being a single parent, and I hope to help you and learn from you, as well. My daughter is older, so maybe the ones with older kids can offer information to those with younger children on how we made it through.”

 

 “I’ve been in for nine years, and seven and a half of those I’ve been a single parent,” added Staff Sgt. Zachary Nordstrom, 19th Medical Support Squadron NCO in charge of Pharmacy Services, and father of a 7-year-old boy. “I’m here to see what others have done, or do, to manage their time and expectations and still meet the expectations that the kids need, as they need a lot of time.”

 

All the participants want to get the word out about the group and have it become a viable organization providing single parents resources and chances to network to make military life with children less of a juggling act.

 

For more information about Single Parents Who Serve, visit their Facebook page, or contact Jones at mellonie.jones@us.af.mil.

 

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