Walter Reed National Medical Center Community

Crafting to heal

Story by SrA Abbigayle Williams on 06/28/2019

“Once (soldiers) are exposed to war or that kind of violence on that scale, I think it changes you in a way,” said Ehren Tool, Marine Corps veteran. “Like the guy who went to war isn’t the same person that comes back.”
In 1941 Brig. Gen. Frederick Osborn, U.S. Army retired, lead the committee on recreation and community service. Initially, the program was designed to provide activities for soldiers in barracks, but after Pearl Harbor, the program changed. Walter Reed Hospital began using arts and crafts to help the wounded become rehabilitated.
The Army and Red Cross saw therapeutic results within the soldiers when using crafts as a means to heal.
The original mission, established within the Army, carried over to the Air Force. The F.E. Warren Air Force Base Arts and Crafts Center was created under this mission in the 1970s.
“Crafts were started to help young men coming back from war,” said Tamra Windows, 90th Force Support Squadron Arts and Crafts Center employee. “We have evolved into what we are today by making products for others, but we are all passionate about keeping the mission going.”
Today, this program can still be found across the military, including in the 90th FSS’s Arts and Crafts Center.
The center here is keeping the program alive by teaching skills to active duty, dependents and retirees. Currently, they provided a wide range of classes including sewing and picture framing.
In addition to education, the center is also available for people to rent out space and work on their craft using various equipment in the shop.
Since the center’s evolution, various programs and opportunities have been established on F.E. Warren. When an occasion calls for something special, the employees have numerous ways for someone to express themselves.
“Our team makes some of the most incredible pieces,” said Monica Polsen, 90th FSS Arts and Crafts Center employee. “We can make just about anything, except for metal pieces and the quality can’t be beat.”
A few items that can be custom made in the shop are awards, shadow boxes and t-shirts.
The team working in the Arts and Crafts Center continuously talks about their passion for the work they are doing. In their workshop, they only strive for the best and will always work until the product is complete.
“It takes many hands to get the jobs done around here,” said Windows. “We are a military family always working together to get the job done.”
Many of the employees have a military affiliation and the sense of pride and family on a military installation is what has brought them back to work at the center. Their goal is to keep the shop open for years to come, allowing generations of Airmen to continuously benefit from it.
“We are the best-kept secret in the military,” said Polsen. “A lot of people do not know we exist and if we are not utilized, we won’t be around anymore.”
The Arts and Crafts Center has recently undergone a budget change and now, more than ever, it depends on its customers to keep it open.
The center is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and welcomes anyone with base access to walk in and learn how they can best utilize the facility or place a custom order.
With its deep root in military history and the various services it provides to military members around the Cheyenne area, the center’s employees are striving daily to provide quality products and education, lasting a lifetime.

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