‘Operation Hero’ will help military children in Hoke County

By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • A program called “Operation Hero” will start this fall lending a helping hand to children of military families in Hoke County.

The free after-school program from the Armed Forces YMCA of Fort Bragg offers academic and emotional support for military children in grades 2-8. It’s designed to help children deal with the unique challenges of growing up in a military family.

Operation Hero already meets in several public schools in Cumberland County. It will use the Hoke Reading and Literacy Council building twice a week on evenings when the Council doesn’t host its own programs. The Hoke County Board of Commissioners voted last week to approve the proposal, submitted by Reading and Literacy Council Director Carole Taitt.

“As we know our military children face lots of different challenges, more so than the rest of our kids with deployments and that sort of thing,” Taitt said during a presentation to the board.

Gatherings and schools are currently shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, and Operation Hero will not start until later this year. Even so, the organization has already received one grant to help cover expenses and plans to pursue more funding, Taitt said. The project will not cost the county anything except use of the space twice a week.

The Reading and Literacy Council also plans to take the change to connect with children who could use some help in learning to read.

“We believe they will enhance our program. It’s another opportunity to bring more children into the program. If we recognize there are some reading challenges, we will certainly be able to help them,” Taitt said.

During the twice-weekly sessions, trained facilitators create a safe environment for children to express how they’re feeling, receive academic tutoring and connect with peers who are going through the same challenges. Topics include self-esteem, respect, responsibility, honesty and integrity, friends and family, problem solving and teamwork.

Operation Hero requires pre-registration. Teachers, parents and school officials can refer children to the program. Operation Hero served 1,143 students in 2018 in military communities in Texas, Virginia, California, Hawaii, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma and North Carolina.

For more information, visit https://www.asymca.org.