Family time. That’s the reason multiple Families said they attended the Army Community Service Holiday Spice Mixer Dec. 4 at the ACS building on Custer Hill.
“We needed some Family time, and this was a good opportunity to get the Family together,” said Jasmine Torres, Company E, 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division.
Torres and her husband, Edgardo, a former military member, brought their almost 2-year-old daughter, Savanah Smith, and 1-month-old son, Demetrio Torres, to the evening event.
The Family is a member of the New Parent Support Program, one of the ACS programs participating in the event. It was the first event of its type the Family had attended.
“I love it!” Jasmine Torres said.
Also a member of NPSP was the Blackford Family. Capt. Nate Blackford, 601st Air Support Battalion, CAB, 1st Inf. Div., his wife, Jessica, and their two daughters, Vivian, 2, and Naomi, 7 months, however, were not first-timers. Members of the Family had attended similar Halloween, Easter and Christmas events hosted by ACS in the past.
“I love getting together with my Family and coming out here to see what type of Army programs are available to us,” Nate said. “I just, honestly, enjoy socializing, and the girls enjoy all the colors and lights, so it’s just exciting for them, and it makes it fun for mom and dad.”
Jessica said she thinks NPSP is a great organization.
“They offer a lot of good resources for new moms or moms that are second timers and forgot,” Jessica joked.
Jessica said she was particularly thankful for the Sleep Sense program she learned about through NPSP.
“It’s a book, and it helps teach your children how to get healthy sleep habits, and it really helped me – encouraged me to help my kids,” she said.
But at the mixer, there would be no sleeping as the Blackford Family, along with more than 200 attendees, awaited Santa Claus’ arrival.
The ACS Holiday Spice Mixer provided a free meal to attendees, arts and crafts activities for children, music and games, gifts and stockings, as well as a visit and pictures with Santa.
The event was a joint effort by the ACS staff and was open to Families who utilize ACS’ Family Advocacy programs like NPSP, Exceptional Family Member Program and Hearts Apart, among others.
“We want to encourage community involvement, reduce isolation, teach Family traditions and spend time with our Families in a social setting,” said Toiane Taylor, Family Advocacy Program manager.
Families have the opportunity to socialize and network with other Families who are experiencing the same things they do on a daily basis, Taylor said.
“Many are far away from their extended Families; many have financial constraints that will not allow them to travel; many have Soldiers that are at training or deployed or about to deploy, and it’s easy to look at what we don’t have, versus celebrating what we do have. These Families do a wonderful job with their children and with supporting and helping one another, and this event gives them and us a chance to show off our relationships and community investment.”
Taylor said the holiday mixer exceeded her expectations.
“This is usually a well attended event, but this year was exceptional,” she said. “We had some Families attend this year that historically have not attended our events. We see this as a milestone and an excellent outcome of our work with them.”
FAP has events and classes all year for Families at Fort Riley. These can be found by visit www.rileymwr.com and clicking on “guide information.”
Upcoming events in 2013 include: Self-Centered Marriage – a Scream Free Production, a parent date night, Black History Month Gospel Fest, EFMP support groups, Marriage for Keeps seminars, Love and Logic classes and ACS Spring Fling.
For more information, call 785-239-9435.
By Flavia Hulsey
1st Inf. Div. Post
Flavia Hulsey | POST
Capt. Nate Blackford, 601st ASB, CAB, holds his daughter Naomi, 7 months and speaks to Maranatha Martin, military spouse, during the ACS Holiday Spice Mixer Dec. 4.
Flavia Hulsey | POST
Zachary Bender, 5, son of Craig Bender, HHC, CAB, fills a stocking at the end of the ACS Holiday Spice Mixer Dec. 4 at the ACS building on Custer Hill.