Partnership Strengthens Outreach To Military Families

July 12, 2009 by Jen Dalziel

The Halifax and Region Military Family Resource Centre (MFRC) has teamed up with The Royal Canadian Legion to open both of their doors, phone lines, websites and in-boxes to a whole new crop of military families.

Since 2006, the MFRC has hosted a twice-yearly series of family awareness sessions at Legion branches around the province, reaching out to small communities to raise awareness about the military family services available.

Bernie Mullin-Splude, the MFRC’s outreach co-ordinator, says “The Legion is the community centre in most small towns in this province. And since we both do the same kind of work—support for serving and former Canadian Forces (CF) members and their families—the Legion was very enthusiastic about working with us. So, we put together a series of briefings and presentations, the Legion gave us the space, and we went on our ‘Information Road Show.’”

The presentations have focused especially on informing the parents of CF members about the services offered by the MFRC. Mullin-Splude notes that the majority of Halifax’s military population is made up of young reservists, many of whom do not come from military families themselves. Their parents are often unfamiliar with the military lifestyle, and the services available to them. Through the MFRC’s outreach sessions, these families receive information on remote and community services, and have the opportunity to ask questions and interact with one another in a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere.

“I think it’s very important to give families the opportunity to meet one another,” Mullin-Splude says. “Other families that know what you’re going through, who are there and who understand. They can be the greatest centre for support.”

She notes that the MFRC’s partnership with the Legion has proven beneficial for the Legion’s own outreach programs by getting military families in the door. Bernie has also made an effort to give back to the Legion by delivering presentations at local branches on how to best reach out to the new generation of young soldiers, veterans and their families.

“The reality is that the average age of a modern Canadian veteran is 36,” she notes. “The Legion is a great institution that does wonderful work, and they need to find ways to be more relevant for the next generation. This is one way to introduce new families to the Legion.”

Since the outreach partnership began, the MFRC has made dozens of visits in small rural communities, all with the Legion’s support. The sessions have grown in scope to include more deployment-support presentations, with guest speakers from the Legion, the Operational Stress Injury Support Services and Casualty Support Services. The MFRC team plans to continue going on the road every spring and fall.

“Everybody benefits from these kinds of relationships. I’m very committed to this ‘marriage,’” she says. “This partnership is something that should be expanded, because this will help families when they transition from being a military family to a veteran’s family.”

Note: Provincial command service officers from Newfoundland and Labrador to British Columbia / Yukon are engaging and partnering with MFRCs to ensure the needs of veterans and their families are being met through a variety of collaborative activities. Outreach initiatives into rural as well as urban centres across the country by the grassroots are essential to meet the diverse need of military families.

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