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By Barbara Wilson, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office
Deployments. Financial emergencies. The loss of a loved one. Many things can cause stress for members of the Illinois National Guard and their families.
There are resources available to assist members of the Illinois National Guard to help ease the stress caused by these life changing events.
“This list was created last year at the onset of COVID,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Dena Ballowe of Litchfield, Senior Enlisted Leader for the Illinois National Guard. “Being fairly new as the Senior Enlisted Leader and watching our members being sent home with the unknowns in the early days of the pandemic, there was a need to gather as many resources into one list as possible so our members could more easily get the help they need.”
National Guard-specific resources, such as family assistance centers at Camp Lincoln and select armories around the state, unit chaplains, and behavioral health resources for each of the Army Guard brigades and each of the Air Wings, are available for Guard members and their families.
Those resources include:
· Illinois Military Family Relief Fund which provides monetary grants to families of Illinois National Guard members and Illinois residents serving in the U.S. Armed Forces Reserve components who were called to active duty during an emergency declared by the President of the United States or Congress effective July 3, 2014. These grants are intended to assist service members and their families defray the cost of food, housing, utilities, medical services and other expenses. For more information about the IMFRF contact the IMFRF coordinator at (217) 761-3542 or (800) 524-4564 (toll free within Illinois).
· The Soldier Support Center at Camp Lincoln, Springfield, exists to serve the Soldiers and Airmen of the Illinois National Guard and retired military personnel. Some of the services provided by the Soldier Support Center include Common Access Cards, Dependent identification cards, DEERS enrollment, TRICARE assistance, and family assistance center. Some services available are by appointment only. For more information about the services provided, or to make an appointment, contact the Soldier Support Center at (217) 761-3307.
· The Family Assistance Center provides information, referral, and outreach to geographically dispersed Service Members and Families to support them in times of crisis and to build resilience. With eight offices throughout the state of Illinois, the FAC is a one-stop-shop for information and resources for service members and family members from any branch of service or component. The FAC Coordinator coordinates resources with the local community through networks. For more information or to contact the FAC coordinator, contact Ronnie Wilson at (217) 761-3335 or the 24-hour toll free number at (800) 832-9225
· Some of the services offered by the Chaplain Corps include pastoral care and/or counseling to ILNG members or their families. To talk with a Chaplain, either contact your unit chaplain or the State Command Chaplain’s office at (217) 761-3567.
In addition to resources within the Illinois National Guard, there are many state and federal agencies, as well as private organizations, which offer resources to assist service members and their families. Some of those resources include:
· Illinois Joining Forces was established in 2012 to connect service members, veterans and their families to the services and resources in their local communities. More information can be found at the IJF website, https://www.illinoisjoiningforces.org/.
· Military One Source is a Department of Defense resource which provides service members and military families the tools to address military life issues. More information specific to National Guard benefits can be found at https://www.militaryonesource.mil/national-guard/national-guard-family-program/benefits-guide/?redirect=%2Fnational-guard%2Fnational-guard-family-program.
· The Illinois Department of Employment Services offers a variety of resources from unemployment benefits and jobs listings. Additional veteran services are also available on their website at https://ides.illinois.gov/.
· ILNG members needing financial assistance or help paying utilities bills have a variety of programs available through which they can apply for financial assistance. More information is provided on Ameren Illinois’ website at https://www.ameren.com/account/customer-service/covid-19. Additional information can also be found on the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s website at https://www2.illinois.gov/dceo/CommunityServices/UtilityBillAssistance/Pages/default.aspx or by contacting the Office of Community Assistance at (877) 411-9276.
· A variety of health and medical services are available through the Illinois Department of Human Services. For information on programs ILNG members and their families may be eligible for, visit the IDHS website at https://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=29722
· American Red Cross works in partnership with military aid societies to provide financial assistance to eligible applicants. For information about eligibility or to apply for immediate assistance visit the ARC website at https://www.redcross.org/military-financial-assistance.html.
· USA Cares provides assistance to post-9/11 veterans and military families from all branches of service. For more information visit their website at https://usacares.org/.
· Army Emergency Relief has financial assistance programs, with both zero-interest loans and grants, available to Soldiers who meet their eligibility criteria. Information about AER programs can be found at https://www.armyemergencyrelief.org/assistance/.
· Air Force Assistance fund’s four charities provide support in an emergency, with educational needs, or help to secure a retirement home for widows or widowers of Air Force members in need of financial assistance. Additional information is available at https://www.afassistancefund.org/.
· Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs has a variety of programs available to veterans and their families. For a detailed list of programs available, visit their website at https://www2.illinois.gov/veterans/Pages/default.aspx.
· ILNG members or family members needing to connect with a crisis counselor can do so by sending a simple text message. The Crisis Text Line is available for any crisis by texting HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the United States. A live trained crisis counselor receives the text and responds. To learn more about the Crisis Text Line visit their website at https://www.crisistextline.org/.
Ballowe said Soldiers and Airmen can also reach out to their unit leaders for guidance in seeking assistance.
“You have great resources available to you. It’s important you take advantage of them,” she said. “The more prepared you are for any situation, the better you’re able to see through it.”