Agency helps workforce stay strong against pandemic

By Tim Hoyle DLA Dispostion Services

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Defense Logistics Agency employees in Battle Creek, Michigan, have been helping their colleagues stay strong mentally and physically as the workforces supports the warfighter and others responding to a pandemic.

Tiffany Schmidt, the Battle Creek Morale, Welfare and Recreation team chief, said all of her teammates have developed activities and resources to help agency personnel and other customers stay resilient.  Schmidt said that the Family Programs manager began offering resources to help parents with activities and educational tools for their children soon after quarantine measures started. Program resources also include weekly “Moving Forward” support group calls on Fridays for people needing help with the tough times.

Since April 17, the calls have reached out to employees at the Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center and DLA Disposition Services’ field locations to teach effective ways to stay calm through different techniques and self-care to help lower stress and anxiety. Family Program Manager Lisa Grenon said that COVID-19 brought many unknowns, fears and worries that can be overwhelming. She wants the calls to give participants “tools in their toolbox” for times when they are stressed.

 “Each week the sessions concentrate on different topics to help support DLA employees as they work through this stressful time,” Grenon said. “Our bodies can sometimes feel like they are in a constant fight or flight response.”

Grenon said 40 million U.S. adults are currently affected with anxiety disorders, but just under 37% seek treatment. Emails after the weekly calls have relayed how the sessions were just what the employee needed. She said they described how employees felt much better and not as stressed after participating in this group.

“A pandemic … can break our sense of safety, of certainty…,” Grenon said. “This group helps us remember we are not alone. You do matter…and you do not have to go through this alone.”

Other MWR efforts include Outdoor Recreation program activities, which Steven Gales, an MWR business manager, said has offered activities for families that include spring cleaning tips, origami and other art recreations like the Kindness Rock Scavenger Hunt. Participants are encouraged to decorate rocks they can leave along popular trails to inspire those who find them.

The Leisure Travel program that Gales oversees has offered virtual “trips” and activities for families to do while staying at home. One such adventure was the San Diego Zoo & Safari Park offering multiple cameras with virtual views of many animals during Spring Break.

 “They recently offered a new platypus camera from the Safari Park,” Gales said. “We have feedback on our Facebook page that people viewed the cameras and enjoyed the virtual zoo.” 

A popular fitness activity has been the Wellbeats videos that range from 15-to-60 minutes with a wide variety of fitness classes. Normally viewed on monitors at the Fitness Center, more than 100 users have been logged in on personal devices using the free access offered by MWR over the past two months.

Sports and Fitness Facility Manager Martha Kerns sent a message early on to encourage people to stay active despite the need to close the gym. Kerns assured everyone that MWR’s trainers would help with home workout ideas to combat fatigue and injury. Trainer Dan Roberts said his intent has been to offer material that employees can use at home or at a local park, while also adding a little humor and levity.

“I’ve shared fundamentals for relaxation and recovery, stretching, strength and high-intensity-interval-training,” Roberts said. “I’ve also shared some sports-related material like tennis skills and drills that can be done at home as well.”

Virtual races like March 14’s “PI Run” were offered before the pandemic. A May 18 “Social Distancing Race” gave participants options to do a 5K walk or run, a 10K walk or run, or a half-marathon on a course they would choose. Runners and walkers captured their times and distances with whatever application they use for fitness activities to share their results. Rain across the area may have discouraged some from participating, but Kerns said results are still coming for all of the options.

“We have had a 5K run time of 29:51, a 10K of 52:56 and a 2:13:13 half-marathon,” Kerns said.

Information on programs can be found on the Battle Creek MWR Facebook page.  Employees who wish to join the Moving Forward group may email Grenon for instructions. The Employee Assistance Program can also be reached online for additional help and resources.  People considering harm to themselves are encouraged to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Veterans Crisis Line at (800) 273-8255.