Military community centers provide the foundation for military families and service members to connect with others and programs at a base. For many, the area is new, and the support systems aren’t in place to smooth transitions.
What is the Base Community Center?
A community center, not to be confused with a recreation center, is a place of service located within a military installation and usually managed by a subsidiary system (e.g., Force Support Squadron or FSS; Family, Morale, Welfare, and Recreation or FMWR.) The center may hold several offices to serve a variety of programs for the surrounding military community.
Some features or services include:
- Eateries or lounges
- Venue spaces for personal rent or community center related events
- Family Readiness Center (e.g., classes for Veterans or Retirees, spousal support, professional development)
- Notary service
- Outdoor recreation and rental
- Information, Ticket or Travel (ITT)
Services may vary from base to base. You should be ready to show proper military ID and status if asked before participating or signing up for base services. Always ask a Community Coordinator.
Finding a Community Center
The best way to find a community center is to visit your nearest military installation and inquire with the front guard. They can direct you to the building. If you live on base, neighbors who are familiar with the general area are the best resources with an insider’s view. People who have been stationed for a while can give you tips and tricks for navigating events and benefits.
A convenient way to access information is to go online and join the community center via a social media channel. Connecting on a Facebook group profile is a popular go-to. You need to click for permission from the Community Coordinator to join the group, but once granted, you will have access to monthly updates on events, deals, and contests open to the base community. This is a great way to stay connected and inquire about details that may be difficult to do in person or over the phone.
There may also be regional magazines published specifically for the military community. This resource may have a lot of the same postings on facebook, but it’s good to have a hardcopy on hand to post in your house for future reference. The FSS or MWR typically manages oversight.
Taking Advantage of What’s Offered
As a service member or military family, adjusting to a new place may limit where you go and how much you could spend. Programs at the community center offer an assortment of free to discounted services. Let’s go into detail on how you can better utilize aspects of the center.
Youth and Family Programs
Activities and events are held at the community center to encourage families to connect. Kids Konnect is one program that allows younger children (babies and toddlers) to have a structured playdate.
There may also be seasonal functions available. Seasonal services work to bring the neighborhood together through social recreation. Some examples may include holiday festivals, magic shows, Paint & Sip parties, haunted houses, and more.
Renting a Space
Community center spaces are designed to house a large number of people. Typically, chairs and tables are on hand, which makes it convenient to rent out a room or room(s) for your special event for a well-budgeted price. Of course, amenities and spaces vary base on base. You’ll have to speak to the coordinator to discuss the details. Keep in mind, some community centers with restaurants may not allow outside catering.
The Readiness Center for Service Members and Spouses
The Family Readiness Support Center may collaborate or even be housed within a community center, so the classes and resources available here are worth mentioning. Family Readiness is a network of agencies, programs, and information to expand and improve the lives of all service members and their families.
The support center provides classes that are community-specific and target areas of need such as Deployment assistance, financial management, relocation or separation assistance, new parent and spousal support, etc. Call or check online to register for a relevant class.
Staying informed and involved is one way to begin to enjoy the area you’re in and make it your home.
Cristina Van Orden is a literary writer and active military spouse. She holds an MFA from Antioch University and taught K-12 English before working in editorial. Cristina currently resides on base with her husband and children.