FORT RILEY, Kansas – Make no mistake: Amanda Bartholome can’t wait until her husband – Chief Warrant Officer David Bartholome – returns from duty with the U.S. Army’s Combat Aviation Brigade in northern Iraq.
But, until then, she’s keeping plenty busy.
Since March, when CW2 Bartholome deployed to Iraq, Amanda has managed to plant her first garden, learned how to roast Anaheim green chile peppers, and started using some new tips for saving money on the family’s grocery bill.
She’s taken classes on how to can foods, blanch and preserve fruits and vegetables, prepare strawberries and tomatoes, dehydrate foods, and pickle peppers. This fall, she’s planning to learn more about making bread, especially holiday varieties.
She’s also taken a class titled, ‘Loving Long Distance,’ which teaches military spouses practical ways to stay connected with their deployed soldier, and help them prepare for new challenges when they return.
“And you know what,” Bartholome says, “these were all free classes.”
She’s one of a growing number of military spouses who have taken advantage of programs offered through K-State Research and Extension’s Fort Riley office, which just began its second year of service on the post.
The Fort Riley office opened in March, 2009, making Kansas just the second state to have an Extension office within a military installation (Texas is the other). Toni Bryant, director of Fort Riley’s Extension program, says she and her staff are now offering 10 to 15 classes monthly, covering many areas relevant to military spouses.
There are approximately 20,000 soldiers currently stationed at Fort Riley, and about 9,000 family members like Bartholome who live on post. Another 13,000 family members live off-post.
The support she’s receiving from the Extension office and other services on the post, “helps [David Bartholome] do his job better over there, because he knows the Kansas community is taking care of me,” says Amanda, who is originally from California where she taught second graders prior to getting married and moving to Kansas.
“He sees that I’m happy and safe.”
The office at Fort Riley is like many of K-State Research and Extension’s offices across Kansas. Bryant notes that the Fort Riley office offers programs and classes in child development, nutrition and health, family life, and managing family resources (such as budgeting and managing credit).
“Our [Extension] agents have just been working their tails off; they’ve hit the ground running,” said Bryant, noting that developing partnerships with key groups and strong support from the post’s leadership have been crucial for the office’s success.
Their work has made a difference for Bartholome, who says that on most questions she can stop in at the office and get written information, or email an Extension agent to get help. “Knowledge is power, and it’s enriching,” she said.