Mission Monday: Community Program Management

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  • AFIMSC Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – It’s Mission Monday. Meet Abigail Pollard, Air Force Community Center subject matter expert and community programs specialist with the Air Force Services Center.

She provides training, programming support, financial reviews and guidance across the Department of the Air Force. She also provides community programs to Air and Space Forces communities.

We asked Pollard, the daughter of an Air Force retiree, to tell us a little more about herself and the work she does for the Department of the Air Force.

What do you love about your job?
Military families … getting to know them, hearing their stories, creating relationships. I host a virtual cooking class with a Master Chef (recently with Chef Luca Manfé) as one of our Air Force central community programs. This last year we hosted 10 virtual classes. During these classes we met a woman whose husband was deployed, and she was just trying to find a community to enjoy some time with.  She even had her little girl cooking with her each class. Another military family was pregnant at the beginning of the virtual classes and towards the end, they had their little baby girl and we got to meet her (virtually). Another couple was trying to have one last date night before the husband deployed.  These classes might be virtual, but we are able to create relationships and a community of people throughout the military to support and lift each other up.   

When it comes to your job, what keeps you motivated?
My passion and love for my job. Being a military brat, I personally know the impact of community programs on a military family. Also, the stories I hear from our military members about what the community programs have done for them and their family. 

Why are you and your team important to the Air Force and Space Force enterprise and your customers?
The simple answer is that community programs create resilient and strong military communities.  Recently my boss, Jamie Compton, sent our team a text with a painting of George Washington praying at Valley Forge. He explained that the photo showed the father of our country, first president of the United States on his knees praying during the Revolutionary War.  He said President Washington was praying for shelter from the weather, food for his men and the morale of his troops to keep fighting. He also said, “he is praying for (force support squadrons) and exactly what you provided every day.”  Community Programs create a community for our military members to find comfort, joy and a moment of peace from some of the struggles and difficulties of military life.     

Describe a project or event you and your team worked on recently that gave you a great sense of accomplishment:
The project I am most proud of recently is What’s Cooking? Master Chef with Chef Luca Manfé.  What’s Cooking? was created during the pandemic and when I came into my current position in September 2020, I was tasked by my leadership to create a new program. I come from a family of cooks/chefs, and I am Italian and Hungarian, so my family loves to cook and eat. I knew the pandemic was creating isolation, feelings of loneliness and people were less connected. I wanted to create a program that brought people and families back to the kitchen since it’s always where my family congregates and finds joy.

The first year I hosted four virtual cooking classes and the military families loved them. They allowed the members to cook in the comfort of their own homes while still interacting with the chef and other military members around the world. Each cooking class we gave away a one-on-one virtual cooking class with Chef Manfé.

The second year we decided to increase the virtual classes to 10 and increase the giveaways to 10. We also decided to create a contest between installations with the top two installations with the most participation from all 10 classes getting a gala dinner cooked by Chef Manfé. The gala dinner wasn’t just cooked by Chef Manfe … the installations were able to give their star food and beverage staff, military members and club chef the opportunity to learn and cook with Chef Manfé as well. The attendees of the gala dinners were participants from the virtual cooking classes, so the relationships we all created virtually were solidified in-person. At each of the installations, Chef Manfé shared his story of his struggles working in the food industry, moving from Italy to the U.S. and how he worked through various struggles in his life. The comments and appreciation from installation leadership and military members to the AFSVC team for providing such an amazing program and opportunity was worth every exhausting moment. 

How does what you do support AFIMSC’s strategic priorities?
I believe community programs hit on all AFIMSC strategic priorities. Community programs create resilient and strong military communities. These programs allow for our military members to find comfort, joy and a moment of peace from some of the struggles and difficulties of military life. Also, when our military members are mentally healthy and have strong community support, they are strong, more focused warfighters.       

Is there anything else you’d like to add which might help people understand the importance of what you do for the Department of the Air Force?
A lot of times when people think about the support that is needed for the military, they don’t think about community programs being a priority, but it’s so important to the success of creating strong military families and mission-ready service members.