Making Military Life Easier for Families in the Pikes Peak Region

Military families face many challenges, from frequent moves and deployments to the difficulty of putting down roots somewhere and really feeling like a part of the community. The mission of the Southeast & Armed Services YMCA is to make military lives easier, with primary focus on lower enlisted service members providing free or low-cost events and programs the reduce stresses of military life and promote resiliency.

The Colorado Springs Pikes Peak Region is one of only four cities in the country that serves four or more military bases (the others being Honolulu, San Diego and Norfolk), making the mission of Southeast & Armed Services YMCA even more vital for our community.

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The Southeast & Armed Services YMCA provides various programs that supplement or compliment programs already in place on base installations.

One of the unique programs offered by Armed Services YMCA is Operation Kid Comfort. When military service member parents are deployed, eligible parents can request for a FREE quilt or pillow made by quilter volunteers. These quilt or pillows bring comfort to children that include pictures of their deployed parent, so they can help bring comfort close and help ease the stress of military life.

Operation Kid Comfort has created more than 1,300 pillows and blankets for the children of deployed soldiers since it was brought to the Pikes Peak Region in 2009. One of those smiling kids was Elena Mendez. She’s only 20 months old, but when she got her sunshine-yellow quilt, she picked out the pictures of her dad right away.

“This quilt is going to be dragged with us everywhere across the house,” her mom, Blair, laughed. “It will definitely help…we have pictures, and we FaceTime, but this quilt will be readily available, so now she can see her dad more.”

Blair said the quilt was especially important to her as a mom because she was afraid that Elena would forget her dad.

“All the technology, it helps, but programs like this give you ideas you’d never have, and this quilt gives us another way to have Dad around more,” she said. “We just so appreciate the people who put their time and effort into this to help us.”

Another family who recently picked up their quilts got two – one for five-year-old James and one for his year-old sister, Briella.

Their mom, Cecilia, said that she loved how the Southeast & Armed Services Y is always there to invite her family to events like the military family dinner, or breakfast with Santa, making sure her kids gets presents for Christmas.

“It’s nice to know there are helpful people out here,” she said. “I love the way they treat me at the Southeast & Armed Services Y. The moment I walked in, everyone was so welcoming, there were hugs…they were absolutely amazing.”

The quilts, she said, were extra special to her and her family. Her son James agreed.

“I love my quilt because it has all my favorite stuff I like…ninja turtles and my dad who I love,” he said.

When military parents are home, however, the Y recognizes the importance of providing events and programs that will help families grow closer and create memories that keep them strong when they have to be apart.

TFather-Daughterhe Military Father-Daughter Ball is one of those events. Military daughters are transformed into princesses (complete with their own crowns) and get their dads all to themselves for an evening. Both fathers and daughters create memories which will last a lifetime.

“The Military Father Daughter Ball was greatly appreciated by my family…a very positive event to show community support for our military children, who are the true unsung heroes of the Army story,” said one father.

The annual event includes carriage rides, caricatures, food, dancing, flowers, live princesses and more – all the ingredients needed to create a magical night for fathers and daughters.

Father-Daughter 2“They treated my princess like a real queen and they treated me with the utmost respect…it gives us a necessary break to take time to spend with our families and those who mean more to us than anything else,” said another dad.

Another parent said his daughter is still talking about the night she’ll ‘never, ever forget.’

“Time with my children is precious, and this night could not have been any more magical for both my daughter and me,” he said.

Other events the Y offers exclusively to military families include a father-son fishing trip, a Mother-Daughter Tea, weekend family camps, Breakfast with Santa, Veterans Appreciation Breakfasts and more.

Beyond this, the Southeast & Armed Services Y offers a variety of other services, from swim lessons and soccer to fitness classes and two-hour child watch for Y members. Military families and veterans receive a military discount on their memberships, so they don’t have to worry about cost – they can simply enjoy all the Y has to offer.

These programs, events and services are our way of saying thank you to the military families in our community. We are honored to serve you.

For more information, please visit: www.ppymca.org/programs/military/events www.facebook.com/SoutheastArmedServicesYMCA

POC: Drew Aquino – Military Outreach Director: daquino@ppymca.org / 719.622.9622

Nestled Just Inside Gate 20 on Fort Carson Army Post

The excitement on a child’s face when they are told they are going to preschool is truly priceless. CPCD…giving children a head start, is a free preschool program creating excitement about school for young children. Our programs help foster and develop a love for learning early on, that prepares children for success in school. One parent will tell you she had her son in Head Start in Hawaii while her family was stationed there. When they were reassigned to live in Colorado, she searched online for Colorado Springs Head Start programs and CPCD popped up. To her surprise, CPCD enrolled prenatal women and children age birth to three in its Early Head Start program. The day she visited the enrollment office to apply for her son to be in the CPCD Head Start program catered to three to five year olds, she also applied to enroll her daughter in the Early Head Start program. Both children were enrolled into CPCD not long afterwards and settled into a routine that helped them adjust to the move. The mother will tell you her daughter flourished in the program and both children are developing strong social and emotional management skills. CPCD also helped this mother with the transition to Colorado. She’ll tell you the program educators and parents in the classroom helped to make their move and transition to Colorado a pleasant experience.

cpcdThis is just one example of CPCD helping a family in the Colorado Springs community. CPCD is able to support and help many other military families and offers classrooms on Fort Carson in a center near Gate 20. The center is a first of its kind in the State of Colorado and only the second nation-wide Head Start program on an Army post.  CPCD is at times described as a best kept secret because Fort Carson is a large post.  When families learn about CPCD, they are surprised about the services and wish they knew about CPCD sooner.

What sets CPCD apart from other preschool programs are the comprehensive services provided to the child and the support for the entire family. Our services include Health and Nutrition, where we provide dental screening in the classroom and incorporate healthy eating habits for children and their families. We offer transportation to those that qualify, behavioral health services, services to support children with special needs and family services. Every family in our program is paired with a family advocate who visits their families in their home to bring the knowledge of what the child is learning in the classroom to the home and also support the family with any goals they have. Parents and guardians are supported by many different workshops available to learn about topics like children that are picky eaters, financial literacy classes, cooking classes and classes discussing love and logic in relationships, just to name a few.

The family workshops offer a space for all parents to get to know each other, mingle and make parent friends. This is especially important for military parents or guardians while a spouse is deployed and the workshops provide extra support and help.

The support CPCD provides transcends the classroom. CPCD connects families with local resources and organizations to help meet any needs families may have. We also engage community support that brings community members into our world to volunteer and make a difference for our families. Volunteers helped to build the Fort Carson Learning Garden. The Learning Garden is a chance for children on post to learn and get their little hands dirty with planting and digging. It’s also an opportunity to learn about vegetables! The produce that is grown in the garden is available for families to take home and make healthy meals with. Volunteers helped make this happen and the support of the community is something we are always gracious for.

To learn more about CPCD…giving children a head start, please contact Tiyana Hardney Vela, Outreach Manager at Tiyana@cpcd.org or 719-884-1474. There are also opportunities to join CPCD’s Get on The Bus Tours, where you take a one-hour ride on a school bus that takes you through the neighborhoods of our children and families. Contact Zuleika Munoz, Development Officer at zmunoz@cpcd.org or 719-884-1409, if you are interested.

The Network of Care

network-of-careDo you have questions about employment, education, social services, physical and mental health, and other topics? Visit the Network of Care, our comprehensive resource and referral directory, library and assistive devices marketplace and the answers are a mouse-click away.

This website can help military service members, veterans and their families access resources from the community and act as a secure folder for your personal records.

Service Directory

pmcn-contactSearch your area’s comprehensive directory to find services for veterans; service members; family members; active-duty personnel; reservists, and more in the Network of Care’s service directory. Search a keyword or specific organization to learn about how they can assist you and how to contact them.
If you have any trouble navigating the directory, fill out the contact form and the Peak Military Care Network will contact you for personal assistance.

Personal Records Folder

Use the Personal Health Record (PHR) to organize and store important medical and healthcare-related information. Create folders for yourself, family members, or others you care for. The information placed here is stored on a secure, Verisign-encrypted server, the same type of security used in online banking. Unlike the medical files you may keep at home, your Network of Care PHR is available whenever and wherever you need it.

If you choose to, you can grant access to your PHR to others, such as a physician, lawyer, family member, trusted caregiver or friend. You decide what information to share, and for how long.

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This secured environment is also the gateway to other secure Network of Care (NOC) resources. To ensure your privacy, this is where articles and service links you collect on the NOC are stored. Personal messages are also viewed here, such as correspondence from a healthcare provider, email from a private NOC support group, or notices about bills you’re tracking through the Legislature.

To access these and other features, you need a Network of Care account. An email address is all that’s required. To set up your account, please click the “New User” tab above.

Community Calendar

PMCN regularly updates the community calendar on the Network of Care, so be sure to check it for community events! Job fairs, resource fairs and other resourceful events that are targeted for military service members, veterans and their families.

The First Step is Picking up the Phone

Sally is the mother of Michael, an Army Veteran who served in Iraq between 2006 and 2008.  Michael suffers from a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress after being involved in explosions in Iraq and watching fellow Soldiers die on the battlefield.  Michael also lost a brother, who took his own life at age 14, so he experienced a great deal of trauma from an early age.  He was eventually medically retired from the Army and returned to his family in Michigan. He came back to Colorado Springs in 2015, but he still suffered from his invisible wounds, self-medicating, adding substance abuse to his challenges. He was arrested in 2016, facing felony charges stemming from his addiction.  Sally got a call from Michael from jail in May 2016. However, he bonded out of jail and she was not able to reach him.

Sally, living in Michigan, knew her son was in trouble and feared for his health and safety, and didn’t know how to get help for his legal challenges.  She didn’t want to lose another son.  Sally didn’t have any connections in Colorado Springs, but knew that her local television news anchor, Stephen Clark, WXYZ TV Detroit, did have a Colorado Springs connection. She reached out via Facebook message, not really expecting a quick or any response.  However, Stephen responded right away and reached out to his father, Major General Wes Clark (USAF, Retired), who serves on the Board of Directors of the Peak Military Care Network (PMCN).  Wes reached out to PMCN staff and a former PMCN Board member, Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey.  Sally’s one Facebook message opened up a network of local support that changed her and Michael’s course.  After reaching out to Stephen, people from Colorado Springs “reached out to me before I even had a chance to call anyone else.”  Within a very short period of time, PMCN reached out to CSPD and Leo Martinez, Lead Peer Mentor for the Veteran Trauma Court, and all (and others) connected with her to provide support and help her son.

The collaborative network of military and veteran support agencies that PMCN coordinates showed Sally that help was available for her son – and her. “Many people worked behind the scenes to help Michael,” she says.  While Michael was not accepted into the Veteran Trauma/Treatment Court program, many, many individuals advocated for him. And Michael helped himself – and his fellow veterans.

While in the veterans’ ward of the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center (CJC), Michael realized that he wasn’t alone and that he could help fellow veterans.  “Michael never gives up…he told me, ‘maybe I’m here for a reason.’”  Sally explains that Michael has helped transform the CJC, starting a peer support program, helping other veterans talk about their struggles with invisible wounds and the addictions that led many to the jail, facing DUIs and more serious charges.  This work in helping veterans has become a calling for Michael – he has found a new mission.  He felt so compelled to help not only those in the El Paso County CJC, but all veterans who are incarcerated.  With the help of CJC staff, Lead Peer Mentor Leo and fellow veterans, Michael, on the anniversary of his brother’s suicide, led veterans and CJC staff in the 22 Pushup Challenge to raise awareness and help end veteran suicides:

Pushuphttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFK2FRvtg6I

With this new mission and many military leaders and fellow Soldiers advocating for him in his legal case, in December 2016, Michael received probation. He has been sober since August of 2016 and is receiving services through the Colorado Springs VA Clinic for substance abuse and living in the Crawford House, a private, non-profit veterans’ residential treatment facility run by the Colorado Veterans Resource Coalition.  He told his mother that despite having opportunities to enter programs in other states, he felt compelled to stay in Colorado Springs, where his fellow veterans are, to help them as others helped him.  Michael and other veterans who have left the CJC continue to offer peer support, meeting at a local Denny’s and even working with the CJC to arrange for veterans in the jail to still be able to talk to veterans who have been released.  “He didn’t go through everything he went through for no reason,” says Sally. “He survived to be able to help others. Michael is so excited about staying involved and helping others.  Michael will be a drug addict all his life, but he has a mission now that he never did before.”  He is also seeking help for other needs, including his TBI, which he was never able to address while he was self-medicating. “He is excited about doing things in a positive way now.”

Sally wants other family members to know that there is help and not to be ashamed to ask for that help. “Your spouse, son, daughter, family member served our country and there is help out there. The first step is picking up the phone and asking, ‘where do I go for help?’ You don’t have to know what to say or what to ask. Just picking up the phone, you will be amazed at the network of people out there every day and hooking you up with help.  The support is life-saving, especially as a parent – you feel like you’re alone. You may feel like you are in a dark tunnel and may be intimidated to make that first call, but if you ask for help, there are so many people to help; they guide you, they give you strength.” Sally also recommends hanging on to that phone number and the resources you collect.  You may need help later or others may ask you how to find help. “There is someone out there that has your story – you are not alone.  Now other moms reach out to me, and I want to tell them, ‘feel no shame; saving one life is worth it.’ And making sure that people know the help is available – that is what will save someone – knowledge!”

Veteran in Charge: The Independence Center

IC LogoMany Veterans are faced with challenges from declining health, disability, rising costs of care and increasing limitations to living independently within their homes and communities. The great news for Veterans residing in Elbert, El Paso, Park, and Teller Counties is the resource available to them:  the Veteran in Charge (VIC) program. VIC is a partnership between The Independence Center (IC) and th e Veterans Administration. VIC is a veteran-directed home & community based services program that allows Veterans the flexibility to direct services they need to remain independent and thrive in their communities. VIC engages Veterans of all ages.

Over the past year, VIC has successfully enrolled 42 veterans into the program. The impact is that Veterans are remaining in their homes and staying out of skilled nursing facilities. They are reengaging with their communities through a wide range of activities. They are purchasing necessary equipment for home modifications in support of independence and safety. Veterans and their families are pleased to have the resources and supports to live life on their terms. For more information, call 719-471-8181, and ask for VIC.

The Independence Center is a local nonprofit organization that provides traditional and self-directed home health care, independent living, and advocacy services for people with disabilities which range from peer support, skills classes, and employment assistance to individual and systems advocacy. The IC’s mission is to work with people with disabilities, their families, and the community to create independence so all may thrive.

A Day in the Life of a Senior Visiting the Area Agency on Aging

MARK, STATIONED AT FORT CARSON, COMES INTO THE AREA AGENCY ON AGING with concerns about his mother, Brenda, who has just relocated to Colorado to be nearer to Mark and his family.  Brenda, 78, has been under a great deal of stress, associated with her recent move to a new community.  Mark isn’t able to manage all of Brenda’s needs and finds that he needs some support himself, as he tries to learn about resources in the community for his mother and himself.

ppacg-logo-90hMark and Brenda are directed by friends to talk to the team at the Area Agency on Aging, whose focus is serving seniors and their family members.  Brenda and Mark start with the PPACG Family Caregiver Support Center, where the case manager meets with them one-on-one for over an hour, listening to them both share their concerns and asking follow-up questions that will allow him to make the best  referrals possible.  The case manager recommends that Mark attend one of the classes for caregivers offered by the center. This class will help Mark better help Brenda, and therefore relieve some of the stress of being a caregiver for a family member.

As part of the conversation, it becomes clear that Brenda needs some extra help at home but has limited income.  She may qualify for assistance through Medicaid.  A center case manager from the PPACG Information & Assistance Center joins the conversation and agrees to meet with Brenda at a later date, to help her with completing a Medicaid application.  The case manager tell Brenda and Mark that if they are ever interested in local assisted living residences, they can talk to the PPACG Ombudsman team and learn about what is available in the community.  The case manager also provides Brenda with a Yellow Book, which has over 800 agency and business listings that serve seniors.  To Mark, the case manager recommends the on-line resource of www.pikespeak.co.networkofcare.org/aging.

Brenda also needs to see a doctor and receive new prescriptions for the insulin she takes daily to treat her diabetes.  She has Medicare and needs to find a doctor that will accept Medicare as payment for her appointments.  A counselor from the PPACG Senior Insurance Assistance office is invited to join the conversation.  She is able to provide Mark and Brenda with a list of doctors in the Pikes Peak region who accept Medicare.  The PPACG Senior Insurance Assistance counselor also helps Brenda choose a new Medicare prescription plan, one that provides good overage for the medications that she takes to treat her diabetes and has the least out of pocket cost to her.

Brenda and Mark leave the PPACG Area Agency on Aging feeling well-informed and supported.  They feel as if they have just joined a team, and that everyone is working together to help them to help themselves.

Editor’s note: Article submitted by Gretchen Bricker of Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments Area Agency on Aging.  She may be reached at 719-471-2096, x 143

Unexpected Thank You’s

The PMCN staff is constantly in the community attending outreach events, community meetings and collaborating with partner agencies. There are times when a military service member, veteran or family member would approach us and say “hey, I talked to someone at PMCN once and they were extremely helpful with assisting my family last month”. It is always heartwarming when we know PMCN has touched someone’s life and helped them navigate through their specific needs.

The other day Christian Nunez, the Generalist Navigator at PMCN, attended a Soldier for Life Resource Fair on Fort Carson and ran into Sherry Jenkins, IMCOM Region 5 Career Skills Program Coordinator, Directorate of Human Resources. Sherry shared with Christian a special story of how PMCN touched her life:

A dear friend of Sherry’s, a U.S. Air Force veteran, was diagnosed with cancer in 2015 and needed financial assistance in order to go home to see her family one last time. Sherry and another friend were trying to think of how they could get their friend home safely to Alabama to see her mother and other family members one last time.

Sherry mentioned that she knew “Colorado Springs is a strong military community and has lots of wonderful organizations that I thought might be able to help.  I started calling around and thought to call Peak Military Care Network to see if you had ideas”.

Sherry was able to find an individual donor through Wish for Our Heroes and her friend was able to travel to and from Alabama to say her final goodbyes. “Thank you Christian for recommending and connecting me to the right person with Wish for Our Heroes”.

Running into past callers, like Sherry remind us that we are making a difference in many people’s lives and we want to ensure the word is out that about so many great organizations who strive to help our military community every day.

If you or a family member are seeking assistance from the community, contact PMCN at 719-577-7417 or info@pmcn.org to speak with Christian.

Peak Military Care Network: Connecting people to resources

Welcome!

This blog is a way for PMCN and our 30+ partner agencies to connect with service members, veterans and their families. Stay tuned for monthly posts!

Who is PMCN?:

The Peak Military Care Network is a nonprofit organization in Colorado Springs and our main mission is to connect military service members, veterans and their families to the highest quality resources provided by our trusted community partners.

PMCN recognizes that needs and services can overlap, so we have developed a service framework that takes a holistic approach to understanding and meeting the needs of our military and veteran community. That is where our partner agencies come into play. Our 38 partner agencies consist of, but are not limited to, these services:

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What does PMCN do?:

A Central Source for Trusted Information:

PMCN connects people to information and resources in a variety of ways, including our Network of Care website, a comprehensive, centralized source for local information and resources, providing a broad range of services and information in one easy-to-use location.

Our Network of Care includes an extensive web-based resource directory of all local services for:

  • Veterans
  • Active duty personnel
  • Guard and Reserve members
  • Military & veteran family members

The site links to key services available at local military installations, as well as extensive federal (including VA) and state resources. The website also includes:

  • Employment resources
  • Health information
  • Military and veteran news

Network of Care provides safe and secure storage of electronic records, such as:

  • DD214
  • School transcripts
  • Health information for yourself or someone you care for

Navigation

PMCN has personal navigators to help service members, veterans and family members connect with specific resources from the community. These navigators will assist you every step of the way and will follow up with you to continue ongoing navigation.

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