Intentional Community: Ellsworth Spouse’s Club builds connection
The mission is clear: get connected.
That’s the hope behind Team Ellsworth Spouse’s Club, said president Beth Parker.
“We want to create a supportive, helpful and comfortable space for our members, military members and their families to explore social connections, volunteerism and educational opportunities,” said Parker, who has been a part of the club since 2021.
She joined for a simple reason – it’s hard to make friends when you keep changing zip codes. Parker moved to the Black Hills in 2021 with her husband and two kids.
“It’s hard when you first move to a new state and don’t have your circle, so for me joining the Spouse’s Club was a good way to meet others who can relate to what my family was going through,” she said.
Parker knew firsthand the importance of making connections. Her family’s military history goes back to her grandfather, who served in the Army Air Corp. Her father served and retired from the Air Force and she served in the Air Force for four years as well. She married her husband Jeff while stationed at their first base in Mountain Home, Idaho.
The family has since moved to five other bases. Ellsworth will be their last as Jeff retires this year. With every move, Parker has been intentional in connecting with other spouses and their families.
The Spouse’s Club is a great tool to plug in during or after a transition, Parker said, and to help spouses and families find emotional support, friendship, help navigate military life, connect with resources and help each other in charitable ways.
The Club also runs the base’s B-1 Thrift Store, which raises funds for college scholarships, spouse career enhancements, funding for individuals to attend camps and other organizations.
Every month, the Club hosts a social event. Past gatherings have included movies, roller skating, pottery and Rush hockey games.
“It’s a good way to have a night out,” she said.
The Club has also gathered into smaller groups, or mini clubs, for people wanting to connect with others who have the same interests.
“The book club is one of our most popular ones,” Parker explained. “We also have a kids playgroup, brunch bunch and in the past, we’ve had hiking, photography, bunco and crafting groups.”
The club also organizes volunteering opportunities when possible.
“That’s another way to give back, but to also promote so we can try and reach as many spouses as possible,” she added.
For every event, every gathering, building community is at the heart of it, Parker said.
“Being a part of the community is big,” she said. “For the military side, it’s building that family.”
Most military families move away from hometowns, grandparents, friends and miss those connections, she said, especially during holidays and birthdays. It takes work to create a network of friends, support and safety.
“A lot of times it’s hard, especially when you move to a new base and you have children,” she said. “You don’t have a family member you can put as an emergency contact or the support system you’re used to, so by helping connect others together you can find others to rely on.”
The Spouse’s Club also hopes to help families build ties with the local community.
“Finding a job, connecting with other businesses and organizations goes along with building that support system,” she said. “And networking with the local community gives military families opportunities to work with other resources and businesses that would not normally be available through the military community alone.”
Regular gatherings for the Spouse’s Club begin in August each year and go on until the start of summer. Parker has a vision to see the Club grow and reach more people.
“I want to help people connect and thrive while they are stationed here at Ellsworth,” she said.