Free event will offer guidance, resources to build up stepfamilies

The Chapel Program at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is sponsoring a mini conference to help up to 150 couples achieve the most successful blended families they can.

The conference, scheduled for March 29-30 at Vineyard Church, 4051 Indian Ripple Road in Beavercreek, is open to the military community as well as blended families in the greater Dayton area.

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Chaplain (Capt.) Timothy Springs discusses the Chapel Program’s commitment to blended families and why it is sponsoring this event.

Why is the Chapel Program interested in promoting this topic?

Springs: It is one of those needs for which it is tough to find resources. We've seen that there are so many blended families who serve in our military, and we knew we needed to do something to help.

How did you discover there are so many blended families?

Springs: Through talking with Airmen – we call it "unit engagement" – and in counseling sessions and even in our chapel worship services, that's where we became aware of their unique needs.

Blended family expert Ron Deal will lead the sessions. How did the Chapel become aware of him?

Springs: We have used some of his resources in the past and knew he would be the right person to lead the conference. He is a noted marriage and family author, conference speaker and therapist for step-families.

One of the goals the Chapel Program has for the conference is to help up to 150 blended families. You’re hoping to have an impact not only on base but out in the greater Dayton community, too, right?

Springs: Sure. Of course, our priority is our active-duty military members and their dependents. Again, we've had a tough time finding resources on base and in the community; we've seen that assisting blended families goes beyond Wright-Patt and into the local area. By having relationships with local houses of worship and clergy, we felt we could partner with them and really expand to the entire community.

How will this event benefit Airmen’s family life if they attend?

Springs: This will give them some additional tools to help address and overcome the unique challenges they face – step-parenting, ex-spouses, communication gaps and more.

If two Airmen were married and then divorced and have new families, how will the event help them?

Springs: Sometimes we tend to look at things from the surface, but Ron Deal is adept at helping people look for underlying causes of issues. In other words, sometimes we focus on the fruit, when really the issue is at the root. What is happening with those underlying issues that we can address? Maybe it's something with the blended family we're not even talking about.

The Chapel has made arrangements for free childcare and meals. Why is it making this kind of investment?

Springs: These arrangements give the couples the opportunity to not be distracted. We want to remove any potential barriers to participating. We also want to ensure that the children enjoy themselves.

Are there any other key skills or aspects to successfully blending families that you hope participants will learn?

Springs: Communication is key, as is conflict resolution. Ron Deal will speak to how to resolve those areas of tension within the blended family.

Does the Chapel have any other programs dealing with divorce and related issues?

Springs: Last fall we held a 13-week course on divorce care and single parenting. We also have a monthly single parent networking luncheon. We're doing things that are related because we continue to see the need. We may add more workshops on these topics in the near future.

GLANCEBOX

Building a Successful Stepfamily Conference: How to go

• Dates and location: March 29-30, Vineyard Church, 4051 Indian Ripple Road, Beavercreek

• Tickets: $15 per family

• What is included: Conference materials, childcare for children ages newborn to 10 years old, Friday night dinner and Saturday breakfast

• Registration: Active-duty, Reservist and Guard military members, and Wright-Patterson AFB civilians have priority registration now through March 1. All others are encouraged to sign up March 2 to 22. Register online at https://smartstepfamilieswpafb.eventbrite.com.

• Volunteers: To help facilitate the event, go online to volunteersignup.org/XCTH4.

• To sponsor a family: Email djuna.shorter.1.ctr@us.af.mil

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