While Fort Meade has been struggling to accommodate thousands of Army reservists being sent to the Persian Gulf, counselors and support groups are busy trying to help the families left behind.

It is not an easy task, as those trying to help are finding money running shortand new problems cropping up every day.

"Everything has sort of blossomed," said Marci Emmerson, head of Support Services at Fort Meade. "It is stressful. There are more financial problems. Everything just escalates."

The support group at Fort Meade handles problems experienced by the 2,810 servicemen and their families permanently stationed and living at the fort. About 3,300 families of servicemen working at the fort live off base.

Figures of how many of these families have members serving in the war overseas were not available, and Fort Meade officials would not allow interviews with any of the families.

Emmerson said one of the biggest problems is money. Many servicemen had second jobs or their spouses worked. Often, such arrangements are no longer possible, especially for families with children. The families need money, food and help raising the youngsters.

Families of reservists have their own share ofproblems. Not being permanently stationed at the base, it can be harder to find support groups. Also, reservists often make far less money in the gulf than they did at their regular jobs.

Emmerson said the emergency food fund and day-care services are some of the most used programs at Fort Meade. Support Services has received more than $5,000 in donations, and Emmerson said the food bank is not in danger ofrunning out.

"They are handling it very well," she said. "Military people are, generally speaking, prepared for this kind of lifestyle. They also support each other very well. There is a tremendous response from the community."

Emmerson said that she has received at least 300 phone calls of late and that she is logging 10-hour days. "Weare very busy," she said. "The numbers have increased by 50 percent.I don't know how to give you figures."

Families not living at Fort Meade can get help from a variety of counseling and support groups as well, most notably the American Legion. The national office has set up a toll-free hot line in California for people to call.

The 24-hour number is (800) 786-0901.

Tell the person answering the phone your problem and area code and he or she will contact the nearest American Legion Hall and work out a plan of action.

"We will handleproblems with cars, plumbing, houses, anything," said Rob Ford, an officer with the state American Legion. "We will investigate the problem and see if we can help."

Ford said most of the calls -- 300 have come from Maryland -- seek information instead of services. "They have questions about their finances --what happens to their (military)allotment," he said. "We find the different places a person should call in order to straighten out their allotments -- whom to contact inthe military."

In one case, Ford said the American Legion Hall inLaurel found a home for three dogs whose owners had to go overseas. It also has found several baby-sitters for women and financial aid for other families.

"We try to help them in whatever way possible," he said.

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