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Arkansas non-profit finding easier ways for military families to get help

Camp Connect is rolling out across Arkansas, providing a much needed portal for families and veterans.

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — There is no shortage of groups that work to support members of the military, their families or veterans of the services, but there's often a gap between those who help and those who serve. It's a problem plaguing even the most well-established organizations.

"Since 2010, we've been connecting community resources back to our military, veterans and families," said Jody Bergstrom, the CEO of the non-profit Camp Alliance.

For 11 years, Bergstrom has been on a mission as big as the military itself, trying to answer one question.

"It started off with being asked, 'if you could change the world for military veterans and their families, what would that look like?'" she said. "I started with one question, and ended up with thousands of voices to create Camp Alliance."

Bergstrom found that a thousand voices bring a lot of solutions, but a thousand voices are also very noisy. She leads Camp Alliance with an eye on organizing the chaos.

It's a non-profit that's backed by some of the biggest businesses in Arkansas, with board members from Tyson Foods, Walmart and others. Before now, all those voices tended to create what Bergstrom calls "band-aid solutions."

Camp Alliance wants to get out of the band-aid business and unify the support that's out there.

"We start connecting what those community resources are back to where some of those needs within our military, in our dependence, in our families," Bergstrom said.

That sounds like a job for the internet.

The problem is, in a state like Arkansas, making that technological connection could be the toughest of all.

Enter Camp Connect, which is basically Camp Alliance condensed to a tablet and a kiosk.

"What's showcased on there is all state, federal and local level resources," said Bergstrom, as she navigated a tablet screen on the Camp Connect kiosk in the MWR Exchange on base of Camp Robinson.

The kiosk has four (soon to be five) categories that a person can choose from, ranging from leisure activities to links to aid groups, like those who respond when a community is hit hard.

"Our service and assistance tab, we noticed when we had all that flooding, we had a lot of emergency assistance [clicks]," she said.

The kiosks are popping up across the state in places like motor vehicle offices, unemployment offices, and smartly, in veterans clubs.

They go any place you might find a military person with questions and needs.

With only a third of them set up so far, Bergstrom already knows the demand is high.

"It's just implementing resources that we know there's a need out in our military and veteran community," she said.

The kiosks are stands holding dedicated tablets, but the same services are available at campconnect.info.

If you run an organization that caters to military families or veterans, or even if you have a business with member discounts, you can get on the Camp Connect platform by reaching out to CampAlliance.org. 

And if you want to share with our audience what your organization is doing, reach out to Rolly Hoyt THV11 on Facebook or @rollyhoyt on Twitter.