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Above left: The Fort Drum Soldier and Family Readiness Division hosted Baby Palooza at the Post Exchange on April 27, offering family members access to a variety of resources from on-post and off-post organizations and services. Above right: Members of the Fort Drum Fire and Emergency Services share information with community members during the annual Baby Palooza. (Photos by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)

Baby Palooza draws Fort Drum Soldiers, families to Post Exchange

Mike Strasser

Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs

FORT DRUM, N.Y. (April 27, 2022) – Instead of shopping aisle to aisle at the Post Exchange on April 27, Fort Drum community members were going booth to booth and collecting bundles of information at the annual Baby Palooza event.

Baby Palooza gathers representatives from on-post and off-post organizations to answer questions and provide resource material to military family members.

Nicole Wetzel, a family development program educator with Fort Drum Family Advocacy Program, said that Baby Palooza is in its 10th year and it is an event that keeps growing.

“This is always going to be a necessary resource because people are always going to need information, and this makes it easier for them,” she said. “Whether it’s your first child or your fifth, you can find something here. Also, information can change and new things are being offered all of the time, and so we want to keep the community informed.”

Off-post organizations represented at Baby Palooza ranged from Jefferson County Public Health Service, North Country Family Health Center and River Hospital to The Child Advocacy Center of Northern New York and Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department.

Among the Fort Drum organization and program representatives in attendance were Fort Drum Fire and Emergency Services, Army Public Health Nursing, New Parent Support Program, School Support Services and the Military and Family Life Counseling (MFLC) Program.

Angela Matuella explained how she and other MFLCs at Fort Drum help military families overcome challenges by providing free face-to-face counseling to on issues such as family relationships, parenting and managing stress.

“We provide short-term, problem-solving therapy,” she said. “It’s completely confidential, which is very attractive to Soldiers.”

Soldiers meet with an MFLC as part of in-processing when they arrive at Fort Drum.

“We introduce every Soldier to the program and tell them which MFLCs support their unit,” she said. “Whether they are single or married, we are there to support them.”

MFLCs can meet Soldiers and spouses wherever they feel most comfortable, and they are also available to military children at Child and Youth Services program and at local schools.

Wetzel said that the Fort Drum Soldier and Family Readiness Division is constantly looking for different ways to reach out to community members.

“We always want to tell our military families what we do and what we have to offer,” she said. “Every time we have a family event like Baby Palooza or a Safety Luau, that’s an opportunity for us to share resources. And it makes me happy when we see so many people here, getting that information.”

Photos from the 2022 Baby Palooza are available at www.flickr.com/photos/drum10thmountain/albums/72177720298445944.

To learn more about the Fort Drum Soldier and Family Readiness Division, visit www.facebook.com/FortDrumSFRD.