JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO–LACKLAND, Texas —
Volunteers from the Key Spouse Program, a program that assists Air Force families within the Joint Base San Antonio community, went to Austin, Texas this past January and met with Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott as they highlighted the program’s success.
Leslie Butikofer, Key Spouse mentor for the 24th Air Force, accompanied a volunteer group from the 24th AF to Austin for the visit with Mrs. Abbott at the Governor’s mansion.
“She wanted to speak with us…it was a great opportunity for her to hear about the issues we deal with as military spouses all the time,” said Butikofer.
The Key Spouse Program is charged with supporting newly arrived Air Force families at JBSA. It consists of volunteers who are trained to assist military spouses ease the transition in several areas. Volunteers are appointed by the military commanders of each unit.
“As a military wife with a lot of experience, moving kids from school to school and state to state, having a husband who has been deployed, living on base, living off, having purchased houses, sold houses, has had jobs, left jobs; all of those things, they (volunteers) provide an experience to new spouses that are coming up and that’s the idea,” said Butikofer.
“[The volunteers] know enough about the local community resources as well as Air Force specific resources to step in at the very lowest level and provide information, resource and referral,” said Danielle Dennis, community readiness consultant at JBSA-Lackland.
Areas in which spouses are looking for guidance include spouse employment, military child care, education, health care and financial assistance resources.
“When we train our key spouses, we train them to have knowledge of installation and non-installation resources,” added Dennis.
Volunteer Lorin Sanchez knows firsthand the benefits the Key Spouse Program offers. As part of the 24th AF support unit, she knows the Key Spouse Program benefits both military families and volunteers.
“When I came into the military as a new Air Force spouse I didn’t have a support system,” she said. Sanchez became a volunteer because she didn’t want any military spouse to feel unsupported with friendship or resources.
“I’ve been able to make a lot of friends and have a really solid support system with people I probably wouldn’t have ever met,” said Sanchez.
The three issues the group spoke to Mrs. Abbott about included spouse employment, military education and available community resources. They’re hoping she may able to advocate for the issues because some are state level items.
“[Mrs. Abbott] was very receptive to the issues presented to her and she is from San Antonio and grew up in Military City USA,” said Sanchez.
“When our funds are exhausted, that is definitely where they are referred,” said Butikofer. “It is in all of our best interests to really encourage Mrs. Abbott, encourage whomever to continue to fund those programs or to help raise money for those things and just be aware that [the state] is a source we rely on.”
The Key Spouse program has been in existence since 2009. Approximately 75-100 volunteer key spouses are trained each year.
Dennis said when new military spouses get plugged in with a Key Spouse volunteer, the transition is less overwhelming.
“We’re able to reduce frustration and increase the timeliness of service,” she said.
“You become aware of everything that is out there; those myriad of programs that are there for you both inside and outside of the military, the government, the Air Force and in the community. It gives you comfort there is somewhere to go, someone who can help you, someone who knows what you’re going through; you’re not in it alone,” said Butikofer.