ST. ALBANS — Wendy Krapowicz coordinates assistance for active duty military members, veterans and their families in Franklin and Grand Isle counties from the National Guard Armory in Swanton.
The National Guard Family Assistance Centers provide in Krapowicz’s words “a one-stop shop” for resources and referrals for military families.
Her work focuses on National Guard members and their families, but includes soldiers and veterans from all branches, civilian employees and families. Krapowicz and other coordinators at the family assistance centers around the state can assist with everything from health insurance to legal and financial aid. The centers can also connect families with mental health and substance abuse counselors.
Center staff are available 24/7 and can provide emergency assistance.
Franklin County has a high population of veterans, said Krapowicz, and they are a diverse, spread-out group. Many may not even know they qualify for veteran services. Veterans can qualify even if they served for a short period of time, as long as their discharge wasn’t dishonorable. Service members who were given a dishonorable discharge for being gay or lesbian may now have those discharges changed to honorable, qualifying them for veteran services, she explained.
Krapowicz urged anyone who may qualify for veteran services to reach out to the family centers, which can help with any needed paperwork.
Asked during a presentation at the Franklin-Grand Isle Community Partnership meeting on Wednesday about what are biggest issues for military families locally, Krapowicz answered, “housing, transportation issues are number one, very, very high.”
After a transportation program for bringing veterans to services, including the Veterans Administration hospital in White River Junction, some vets lost the ability to access services, said Krapowicz. Others struggle to get to the store or pharmacy.
St. Albans Town Selectperson Al Voegele and Rep. Carl Rosenquist, R-Georgia, both veterans, suggested Krapowicz work with local veterans groups to help provide transportation. “As veterans, we are willing to help one another,” said Voegele.
“Another big problem is child care,” said Krapowicz. It can be especially hard for Guard members to find child care on drill weekends, she said.
Voegele mentioned that St. Albans Town will be changing its zoning to allow child care facilities in all areas of the town.
National Guard members from the region will also be deploying next year. Krapowicz said. The family centers will regularly check in with the families throughout the deployment, and will be helping them to prepare prior, including with financial planning. She described past deployments when the centers have assisted families of deployed guard members with hardships such as broken furnaces and snow removal.
Krapowicz may be reached at 338-4319.