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Program eases burden for Md. National Guard members and families

October 03, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- Since the Partners In Care program began three years ago, it has helped make life a little easier for dozens of Maryland National Guard members and their families.

Col. Wm. Sean Lee, chaplain of the Maryland National Guard Joint Force Headquarters, said he introduced Partners In Care in 2005 as a joint effort between the Maryland National Guard and civilian church congregations. The program began with four members, he said, and has grown to 55 in all 23 counties.

In a nutshell, participating congregations offer support services to Guard members - regardless of religious affiliation - who need everything from food to vehicle repairs to crisis and grief counseling.

Lee said there is no financial obligation on the part of the recipient.

On Thursday, at the National Guard Armory on Roxbury Road near Hagerstown, Lee visited with local ministers who are members of Partners In Care. He stressed the importance of helping those who have put their state and country before themselves.

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"Hope is a precious commodity," Lee said. "A person's dignity is so important ... The most important thing you do is meet them with compassion and love."

Lee said the program has received 51 referrals for help since January. He said he expects that number to reach about 75 by the end of the year.

The Rev. Clark Carr of Grace United Methodist Church in Hagerstown said his congregation has helped several people as part of the program.

"It multiplies the ability for providing services for the soldiers," Carr said.

Brig. Gen. Annette Deener, deputy assistant adjutant general of the Maryland Army National Guard, also attended the event.

She said Partners In Care is an ideal program for Guard families who need help but don't have relatives in the area.

Deener said programs like this one show that the Maryland National Guard will always be there to take care of its own.

"That's what the National Guard is all about ... We are like family," Deener said. "If something happens, we want to step in.

To learn more, stop by your local National Guard armory or visit www.mdarmyguard.com.

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