Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

Living

February 4, 2013

Military resource group benefits entire community

JACKSONVILLE — It began several years ago as a means of disseminating information to veterans and their families living in Cherokee and Anderson Counties, but now, the Lone Star Military Resource Group is pulling in the greater community through monthly presentations on self-sufficiency.

The Lone Star Military Farmers component “started out last year as a resource type group, but then we had local residents who were interested in crop sharing – we would come out and farm their land, then the (land owner) would divide the produce,” recalled Lois Hutson, who a farm support and resource development specialist for the military resource group.

That led to opening farmers' markets in Jacksonville and Rusk, which in turn, led to classes at the Cowboy Church in Rusk.

“It started out with a canning class, and it kind of rolled over into everything they wanted to learn, like couponing, making homemade laundry soap, canning and food storage, even bartering,” Hutson said.

The farming project is supported by both the Marine Corps League Detachment # 1381 – Hutson's husband Stephen is the Junior Vice Commandant – and the organizers of the Spooktacular Bull Bash, who purchase seeds for distribution to those wishing to plant gardens.

“There are people out there who want to grow their own gardens but don't have the large equipment to (prepare the land),” she said. “We're trying to start a program where we can till the land and give them harvest baskets and seeds to start their gardens. We want to help the community stretch their dollars, because people want to be self-sufficient, to take care of their families though they don't have the knowledge or skills to do that. We want to teach them the skills so that they can do these things year after year, and become self-sufficient.

The hands-on classes are attracting people from the area, from places such as Kilgore, Longview, Mineola and Mabank, even one woman who drove out from Louisiana for the January class.

“Everybody has different reasons why  they come – some are scared of economy, some want to take care of their health, some want to learn skills,” she said. “It started out being for military, but (the resource group saw a larger) need, and so now we're just fulfilling that need for (all).”

And that, says Julianne Sanford, is the group's ultimate goal: To bring the civilian and military communities together as a greater awareness for the needs of local veterans and their families is created.  

Sanford, a local military family readiness leader and health professional who launched Lone Star Military Resource Group several years ago, wanted to share information amassed over the years, information that provided moral and practical support for military families, especially in rural East Texas.

“We want to bring awareness to people, in order to meet needs of our military families,” she said. “It's very difficult for someone who is non-military to understand the need to develop (resources for this) particular population (because) we're a small portion of population at only 1 percent. So the focus is (to encourage) people to take an extra initiative to recognize (needs of military families). The military population isn't asking for special concessions, but I feel that through their service to our country, it's our duty to serve them the way they have us.”

In 2011, the City of Jacksonville, Cherokee County and Anderson County each signed a covenant, which “says 'we are a military-friendly community,'” Sanford explained. “That they will strive to do things to support military members and their families here.”

Her hope, however, is to see this spread beyond the two counties, so that “texas will be the place that veterans will want to live,” she said, adding. “I want Jacksonville to be the birthplace of this.”

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