Helping Airmen through Airman's Attic

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Brenda Jones has stored up story after story in her "attic" of how the Spangdahlem Airman's Attic has provided for Airmen and families since she signed on to be a volunteer there.

"Gosh, so many stories," Jones said with a laugh. 

Jones is the coordinator of the Airman's Attic, which provides donated items at no cost to help Airmen who are in various situations such as move-ins, move-outs, baby arrivals and even airline luggage loss.

"One of my favorite stories is a young Airman who lost his entire blues set," she recalled. "It was Thursday and he needed blues for Monday. I said, 'Are you aware we have a military room?' He said, 'You have a what?' So I brought him down and showed him. He was like a kid in a candy store. He was just so happy. We set him up with his blues, and I mean everything from the coat, the shoes, the straps, everything. Even the stripes were right so he didn't have to have any sewing done. These blues fit like they were made for him. And I have lots of happy stories like that one. I really do."

Their military room, a room set aside next to the Airman's Attic in the basement of the temporary lodging facility, has dress blues, ABUs, tan t-shirts, physical training uniforms, shoes, boots and just about every uniform item an Airman needs.

Tech. Sgt. Brandon Fontaine, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, stopped by the Airman's Attic after arriving to Spangdahlem about a week ago. Brenda was there waiting for him with a smile.

"They greeted me as soon as I walked in and once I told them I was new to the base, they gave me a tour and helped me locate the items that I needed," Fontaine said. "The items were in great condition and many of them I will use until I leave and then recycle back into the attic so they can be used by someone else PCS'ing in. This service is great because it helps with the stress of moving and it helps a lot in the pockets."

Jones has volunteered at the Airman's Attic for two years and says helping people is what the Airman's Attic is all about. They help active-duty members get settled as they transition to a new base. Jones said it can be an extremely difficult move for someone who hasn't experienced an overseas move before.

"Especially if they have children, and it's not like you can carry all those toys with you," she explained. "It takes a while for that shipment to come in. They don't have bedding, dishes or appliances. So we are just here to help people adjust."

Working at the attic is Jones' way of giving back what she received when she arrived to Spangdahlem, which is why she comes in every day with a big smile ready to help others just like she was.

"We moved in, had our loaner furniture dropped off and had no idea there'd be no linens, no dishes and nothing to go with the bedding," she said. "So over to the Airman's Attic we came. One of the volunteers that's still here today, Wicky, greeted me with a smile, asked how she could help and I walked out of here a happy person. It saved us because that night we really would have been sleeping with our coats on. So, I've been there. I know how they feel."

Donations and volunteers are the keys to success that help turn those situations into positive experiences for those who come to the Airman's Attic.

"We just hope that people come in and check us out," she said with a smile. "We've had people come in for the first time, and they're PCS'ing, so they've missed out. They say, 'I had no idea I could come in here!'"

While the Airman's Attic is open to all ranks and civilian equivalents, there is a limit of the number of free items customers can walk away with. However, customers can also take advantage of a "grab bag" day, which happens on the third Thursday of the month. Members can "grab" two bags worth of stuff.

The Airman's Attic also extended their hours and are now open four days a week. Their hours are 1-6 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; and 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday. They also accept donations any time of the day, since they have another room down the hall that's left open for drop offs.

"We leave the light on all night so it's easy to find your way back there," Jones said.

There are plans in the future for the Airman's Attic to move out of the confines of the lodging facility basement to building 196 across from the fitness center where they'll be more centrally located. In the meantime, Jones and the all-volunteer staff will continue to fill their "attic" with happy stories and the fulfillment of helping out with a smile.