A quiet Starbucks was transformed into a lively community as military spouses and their children gathered Friday afternoon to make new friends and form connections with their military family community.
Cedar Creek Road Starbucks manager Gabby Frye helped organize the event — along with the Blue Star Families organization — partially because of her experience being a military spouse. She says she went to a lot of Blue Star events when her now ex-husband first deployed. Frye said the events were one of the ways she stayed sane during his deployment.
Founded in 2009, Blue Star Families is a nonprofit organization focused on connecting military families with each other, as well as advocating for families to get the support they need.
“It's really special to me, because it's like coming full circle,” Frye said. “Finally I'm the person that's helping people make friends and helping people not feel lonely when their husband is gone.”
This is the second event Frye hosted; the first, in May, celebrated Military Spouse Appreciation Month. Friday’s gathering was part of Blue Star Families' Welcome Week, a nationwide collection of get-togethers in military communities through Oct. 1 focused on welcoming newly-transferred military families into their community and helping them make connections.
Jessica Strong, Blue Star Families’ senior director of applied research, also helped with the event. Strong and her family moved back to Fort Liberty — for the third time — just over a month ago. Strong has been involved with Blue Star Families since 2017, beginning as a volunteer.
“The hardest thing when you're moving to a new community is to make a connection with one other person,” she said. “Particularly if you're a mom and you have little kids.”
Strong said all of Blue Star Families’ events are kid friendly for that reason.
Friday afternoon, plenty of children enjoyed sugary drinks, colored wooden birdhouses and made new friends as they ran around the coffee shop to play. Freebies included drinks and snacks, craft activities for kids and gift bags for the spouses to take home.
The mothers chatted about their lives, how they like living in Fayetteville and where they’ve been stationed before –– often being interrupted by a child asking if they can have a cake pop or cookie.
“This is that chance to find somebody and also get a bunch of freebies on the way so you feel welcome in that new place,” Frye said.
It was Leah Williams' first time at a Blue Star families event. She's been in Fayetteville for two years, and was first worried about leaving her friends behind and having to make new connections, but has had a good experience so far.
“I met a lot of wonderful spouses and was able to connect (with them), so it made it better,” Williams said.
She said her friend Victoria Case told her about the event, and she decided to tag along to learn more about Blue Star Families and what they do for the community. Case first heard about Blue Star Families a few years ago back when her husband was stationed at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. She said she enjoys the family week events because of the giveaways and opportunities to meet new people.
“So every time I go to one, I get to meet new people,” Case said. “I'm very much an extrovert, so I don't usually meet strangers I don't like.”
Case’s two young children also enjoyed the event, scribbling away at patriotic coloring sheets and showing off their very colorful birdhouses.
Blue Star Families has chapters nationwide to support military families, and while a Fayetteville chapter hasn’t formed yet, Strong hopes there will be enough interest in the area to eventually support a chapter for military spouses in the area.
“I want them to feel like they're welcomed.” Strong said. “I want them to feel like they have a place to belong.”
To learn more about Blue Star Families, its mission and upcoming events, visit bluestarfam.org.
Contact Char Morrison at firstname.lastname@example.org.