TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
For some first-term Airmen and Sailors living in the dorms at Tinker Air Force Base, being away from friends and family can be a lonely experience, but not if Team Tinker’s Home Away from Home Co-founder Pam Kloiber has anything to do with it.
Kloiber said that since its inception more than four years ago, the Tinker Home Away from Home program has paired approximately 600 single service men and women with civilian families who provide them with a supportive home away from home where they can relax and engage in fun group activities as they continue their military service.
“Home Away from Home isn’t just for holidays,” Kloiber said. “It’s for the entire time they’re here at Tinker AFB and that could be three or four years considering their duty term. We host 18 Airmen.
“Four are no longer living in the dorms, but still want to be a part of the family. They come over and we mentor them about life skills like buying a car, building budgets and I’ve even provided transportation when an Airman got her wisdom teeth out.”
Southside Oklahoma City residents, Pam and Mike Kloiber (he works with Tinker Federal Credit Union) have both been volunteering with Tinker AFB for the past 29 years.
Pam Kloiber said the Home Away from Home program was created in 2011 after two young Airmen with the 552nd Air Control Wing were killed on icy streets Christmas Eve in a car accident.
“We were attending a banquet with the 552nd Air Control Wing and I asked (then) Col. Gregory M. Guillot, the former commander of the 552nd ACW, if there was anything we could do,” Kloiber said. “He presented me with the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Cadet Sponsor Program and said he’d like something similar at Tinker AFB.”
Kloiber said she conducted research and contacted all of the military academies to find out how their sponsorship programs operated. She worked for about a year getting organized and, with the help of Tinker AFB leaders and the foundation, got off to a great start.
“Hosting a program for Airmen and Sailors is not a new concept, but to organize a foundation that lasts the duration of time that the Airmen and Sailors are at Tinker AFB was a new concept,” Kloiber said. “Home Away from Home is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation designed to assist first-term Airmen and Sailors just out of basic training. The foundation is not a part of the U.S. Department of Defense nor any of its components and has no governmental status.
“We have monthly events during the year, providing meals and giving gift cards to participants. The organization has five volunteer board members and two military liaisons. There are no salaries, but there are expenses to operate the program.”
She said any remaining amount of the funds raised goes directly to the Airmen and Sailors.
“We started out with 10 Airmen and 10 families, and now we have 84 active host families participating in Home Away from Home serving 276 Airmen and Sailors,” Kloiber said.
She said the foundation now has a business plan and strategic plan. Some of the foundation’s other networking activities include “Meet the Hero Night,” an annual picnic and a Christmas party.
“I have been assisting the 18 base communities and two army posts that have contacted me about how to start their own foundations,” Pam Kloiber said. “We’ve sent them the entire workings of our foundation and they can use our ideas to start their own programs. What better or higher compliment is there than supporting the war fighter?
“We’re here to bridge that welcoming gap, give them safe options for involvement in a family’s life and help alleviate their stress.”
All military members at Tinker AFB are invited to attend a free dinner and workshop titled “Resiliency Workshop: Effective Communications and Ways to Avoid Conflict” from 6 to 8 p.m. on Feb. 15 at the American Red Cross, 601 NE 6th Street in Oklahoma City. RSVP is required, for more information contact Pam Kloiber, Home Away from Home co-founder, at 503-5041.
To qualify for participation in Tinker’s Home Away from Home program, service members must:
Be first-term Airmen/Sailors
Be single and living in dorms
Comply with all military service standards
Have approval from commander
Tinker’s Home Away from Home program activities and events have included:
Picnics and more