The California National Guard opened a first-of-its-kind Family Wellness Center on Sept. 8, in San Diego. Located in the community, rather than on a military base like other family centers, the facility is open to members of all branches of the military.
The Center offers assistance with everything from career counseling and financial advice, to tutoring for children and help with post-traumatic-stress-related family problems.
“In the earliest days of our nation, the community would come together in times of need… men stood in front of the plow at Lexington and Concord,” said 1st Lt. Joel Barret, executive officer for Troop B, 1st Squadron, 18th Cavalry Regiment, Escondido, Calif. “That night the alarm bells sounded, and throughout the community people networked together.”
Our community today is once again connecting to take care of each other, he said.
On Aug. 24, nonprofit organization, Big Sunday and retailer Home Depot, teamed up to renovate and landscape the building at 305 E. Mission Ave. With more than 100 volunteers working inside and outside, in a matter of minutes the building was transforming into a quaint location with a garden and patio in the back for members to relax.
One of the biggest projects on the inside involved bringing in electricians to set up a computer station where service members can search for and apply for jobs. Service members can also obtain help in finding day care, benefits information, local veterans programs, food assistance, job assistance and education information.
“When I was stationed in La. and Hurricane Rita struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, I was thankful there was a family wellness center nearby to help military families,” Sgt. 1st Class Noah Ronquillo of Troop B, 1-18th Cavalry, said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “I had children and we were able to go there and get diapers and wipes. Sometimes Soldiers need assistance too. It really feels good to know the community came together to support us.”
The center will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and one weekend a month, with Wellness Center coordinator, Rebecca Lambert, on staff and volunteers working as greeters and tending the garden.
“There are so many possibilities and now we are right here in the community to help,” Lambert said. “We help people with a wide variety of needs, but sometimes people just need somebody to talk to.”
The CNG’s Child and Youth Program also has an office at the Center, though the program is intended only for children of National Guard members.
“We are excited to see the pipe dream become a reality,” Barret said. “We are thankful to have Rebecca. She put a lot of heart and passions into making this place a reality for the military families in our community.”
Spc. Jaime Duarte, a mechanic in the California National Guard’s 79th Brigade Special Troops Battalion and a flooring manager for the home improvement retailer, was one of the volunteers creating a community spirit at the new Wellness Center’s opening. “I am able to serve in the California National Guard and have a career at Home Depot,” he said. “My managers support me, which allows me to give back to my community.”
Rebecca Lambert, left, lead family readiness coordinator in Escondido, discusses the many stories behind everyone coming together to renovate the building. Home Depot’s Jo Anne Pagach, center, human resources and Spc. Jaime Duarte, right, flooring manager as well as a mechanic in the 79th BSTB, volunteered to renovate the new family readiness center. (Air National Guard photo / Master Sgt. Julie Avey)