Tyler/Smith County has a similar initiative that the resource group has become part of. “They have a mayors roundtable – a veterans' and community roundtable – and we're collaborating with them,” Sanford said, adding that she's also involved with her husband's national guard group in Angelina County, which opens up even more possibilities. “We are trying not to define ourselves by any boundaries, it's really about giving service to those military families in our region.”
To which end, the resource group has compiled a 232-page “Benefits for the Brave” handbook that lists state and regional resources for veterans and their families.
It is based on a manual created by Nicole Campbell, a Family Readiness Group leader from North Carolina. There are descriptions of websites that are of interest to military families; practical information on how to sign up for veterans' benefits; names of every Veteran Service Officer in Texas; information about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; even a list of discounts available to vets and their families.
While it is geared to helping East Texas military families, the resource group's purpose exceeds any geographical boundary: Sanford's ultimate goal is to be able to replicate their efforts in other communities across the country.
“We've gotten very positive response from both the military and civilian communties,” she said. “It's been a great bridge that allows providers of resource services to (share information with) veterans, and lets veterans know that these are services for their benefit.”
The group also sponsored a Military Appreciation weekend at the K.E. Bushman's Winery and Celebration Center in Bullard last October, bringing together a slew of organizations that serve military vets and their families.
Both Sanford and Hutson say that while things are shaping up for their groups even better than expected, they still hope someday that the resource and farmers groups will have a permanent home.
“We want to have a place where people can actually, physically, come in – similar to a U.S.O., but more focused on services and resources,” Sanford said, with Hutson adding that it would be more convenient to host classes and operate a farmer's market in a dedicated spot.
To learn more about the Lone Star Military Resource Group/Lone Star Military Farmers contact Sanford at 903-810-0303 or email email@example.com; to contact Lois Hutson, call 903-243-0487, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The groups also have a combined page on Facebook.