How Volunteering is Helping One Military Spouse Rebuild Community
If you've ever moved, then you're likely no stranger to the anxieties of being new in town. For military families who move every two to three years on average, it's a common emotional occurrence. Even for those who are considered "seasoned," each move is different from the last.
Just ask Misty.
We first spoke to this Coast Guard spouse during Blue Star Welcome Week 2021, immediately following her family's third permanent change of station (PCS) move. And just like a good novel, the story doesn't end after chapter one.
Leaving Behind Roots
Before relocating, Misty was a Blue Star Families volunteer in Charleston, SC, deeply rooting herself in the community through hosting regular Coffee Connects for over two years.
Typically held at our Starbucks partner locations, hundreds of Coffee Connects are brought to life each year by volunteers like Misty, further helping to grow the organization and expand support. Having been introduced to the organization in a previous location, she knew exactly how to jumpstart Blue Star Families' programming in an area without a Chapter present.
"I know when I've been places in the past where I just haven't had that group of people around me supporting me, it's so lonely," Misty shares. "And you really can't grow yourself and grow in the community where you are when you don't have that support."
So when the orders came to pack up and head west, she had a plan: get settled and get back to volunteering.
Realities of Moving
The Department of Defense estimates that over 600,000 military-connected families move each year, and we're learning that moves during the COVID-19 pandemic were especially tough. Stories of long waits for housing, lack of moving contractor availability, and lost household goods are trending. Active-duty family respondents (25%) even ranked PCS/relocation issues as a top-five concern in the 2021 Military Family Lifestyle Survey.
"We moved into base housing, and that was surprisingly very easy," Misty recalls. "We actually got a home assigned to us before we even arrived, which is kind of unheard of. That was a huge weight off our backs, knowing that we had a home to go to. Of course our household goods didn't quite make it when they said they were going to, but we kind of were planning for that, knowing that everything was pushed back and people were having lots of delays."
Yet even after settling in, Misty was left wondering:
How would I get connected with my new community? And would I be able to continue volunteering?
Rebuilding a Sense of Belonging
It's been a year since Misty moved to Monterey, CA. And she admits the process of getting settled and connecting has been slow. "I feel like it's still always an adjustment, just finding your people, finding your grocery store, your hair stylist," she explains. "It's all an adjustment. I tried not to put too much pressure on myself this time because I have in the past."
Her first Blue Star Volunteer effort in the Monterey area was introducing Coffee Connects to her community, which was met with some support. Twenty-three spouses and family members attended. And she's confident that's just the beginning, with Blue Star Welcome Week providing the boost her community needs.
"I'm hoping to connect with some local businesses. I did that a lot in Charleston," Misty says. "Everyone's really craving belonging. Everyone's really craving a community. And I feel like when you put on these events and opportunities for families to get out, get together, it just makes a world of difference."
During Blue Star Welcome Week 2022, from September 24th - October 2nd, up to 50 volunteers will host Coffee Connects in communities across the country, providing an opportunity for building a greater sense of belonging for families like Misty's. Non-military-connected families are also welcome! In fact, we encourage you to sign the virtual welcome card in support of our military members.
Discover an event in your neighborhood, or attend a virtual one, by visiting BlueStarWelcomeWeek.org.