By Charlsy Panzino
The Solano County (Calif.) Chapter wanted to connect with and help younger servicemembers, so members asked the Military and Family Readiness Center at Travis Air Force Base to identify its highest needs. The response was child care, children with special medical needs, and financial education.
The chapter was already holding board meetings at the center and had given them support out of the chapter’s treasury in the past, so they had a relationship with the center, said Col. Steve Vancil, USAF (Ret), vice president of programs for the chapter. A Community Outreach Grant from The MOAA Foundation helped expand the chapter’s support.
Child care came in as the highest priority for the base’s family readiness center, Vancil said.
“It’s a problem nationally, and it’s an even bigger problem in California because of the high cost and [strict] regulation,” he said. “For young military families, it’s almost a devastating problem.”
Travis AFB provides child care but not enough for all those who need it, so the base began recruiting families willing to open up their homes for child care. The center then helps those families with the required state certification to become a child care provider, Vancil said.
Part of the chapter’s grant will go toward helping military families who want to be providers with the cost of certification, which includes liability insurance and home inspection.
The second priority was for families with children with special medical needs. Travis AFB has the largest Air Force hospital, and many airmen request the base because they have a child with special medical needs, Vancil said, adding these families have extra medical expenses as well.
The family readiness center’s Exceptional Family Member Program helps these families by paying for some of the extra travel to other specialized hospitals in Northern California, and the chapter will use part of its grant to help pay for meals and gas.
Personal financial readiness was the third top priority for the center. The chapter will help the center with educational materials and events, along with buying $25 gift cards so airmen can buy food when an unexpected expense pops up and they still need money for basic necessities.
“Many of the young airmen are new out of high school, they’re kind of new to adult life, and they don’t understand managing finances really well,” Vancil said.
Charlsy Panzino is a writer based in Idaho.