An American Red Cross-sponsored military support group hopes to expand its aid to residents in Pickerington, Violet Township and Canal Winchester who have family members on active duty with the military.

An American Red Cross-sponsored military support group hopes to expand its aid to residents in Pickerington, Violet Township and Canal Winchester who have family members on active duty with the military.

Last November, the national chapter of the American Red Cross provided the American Red Cross of Fairfield County with a grant to form Red Cross Military Families Connection.

Since then, about 13 family members of men and women from Fairfield and Hocking counties currently serving in the United States armed forces have met monthly in Lancaster and Logan to speak with military personnel and others attempting to cope while their loved ones are away -- often facing the perils of war.

Now, the group hopes to extend its reach by spreading word of its work and is encouraging spouses, parents, siblings, retired and active military personnel to attend the meetings. Nancy Kane Primmer of the American Red Cross of Fairfield County, hopes county residents in Pickerington, Violet Township and Canal Winchester will participate.

"We provide and help in assisting service men and women and their families with their needs in addressing issues that occur across military lifestyles, and help service members and their families cope with normal reactions to the stressful events created by deployments, war and re-integration," Primmer said.

"I can't stress to you just the love of the people I have met," she added. "This is all free to them and it's a beautiful program."

The group meets on the second Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m. at the Red Cross' Lancaster office, 121 W. Mulberry St.

It also convenes at 6 p.m. the third Tuesday of every month in Logan. The location for those meetings, however, currently is in the process of being changed and a new site has not yet been established.

The group provides a venue for family members to share their feelings and concerns, Primmer said.

It also assists family members in contacting their loved ones who are serving abroad and provides information about a number of Red Cross training programs -- such as CPR and babysitting -- that are available to military family members free of charge.

"The American Red Cross' top priority, even when it started in 1849, was to help the military," Primmer said. "They go above and beyond. They want to help those servicemen and women and their families."

She said she agreed to lead the support group to honor her late husband, Dr. Philip Primmer, to whom she had been married for 44 years. Prior to his death in 2007, he spent decades flying to Honduras and other remote areas during summers to provide dental treatment to military personnel.

"After retirement, we were going to join the Peace Corps," she said. "I just wanted to carry on his memory."

In addition to the monthly meetings, the Red Cross is compiling a "Resource Directory" for support group members. It will include discounts to area businesses, as well as information about where to receive counseling and other support services for military families.

The directory also will feature a "selected readings" section, which will list books and other reading material that family members of military personnel have found helpful.

"It all helps in trying to stay here and keep the ship upright while their loved ones are abroad," Primmer said. "We have mothers and other family members whose loved ones are away or fighting on the front lines, and they are very distraught.

"They want someone to talk to, and we give that to them."

Information about the support group can be obtained by calling the American Red Cross of Fairfield County at (740) 687-5585.

The support group will continue to meet through May. Whether it continues after that depends on the whether the national chapter of the Red Cross decides to renew its grant.

In the meantime, the group is partnering with the city of Lancaster to dedicate a military quilt on May 11 at Faith Memorial Church, 2610 W. Fair Ave., Lancaster.

"It's a dedication to the servicemen, women and their families," Primmer said. "We're presenting a quilt to Lancaster Mayor (David) Smith.

"Ladies here have designed the quilt, and soldiers have brought their military patches. The quilt will display all the patches and it will be displayed at Lancaster City Hall, as well as the names of all the men and women who gave patches."

nellis@thisweeknews.com