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Wendy Gade and her one-year-old daughter, AnnaGrace, enjoy the recently revamped Camp Casey Pear Blossom Cottage.
Wendy Gade and her one-year-old daughter, AnnaGrace, enjoy the recently revamped Camp Casey Pear Blossom Cottage. (Seth Robson / S&S)
Wendy Gade and her one-year-old daughter, AnnaGrace, enjoy the recently revamped Camp Casey Pear Blossom Cottage.
Wendy Gade and her one-year-old daughter, AnnaGrace, enjoy the recently revamped Camp Casey Pear Blossom Cottage. (Seth Robson / S&S)
Polly Hancock at the Camp Casey Pear Blossom Cottage, where she took over as manager this week.
Polly Hancock at the Camp Casey Pear Blossom Cottage, where she took over as manager this week. (Seth Robson / S&S)

CAMP CASEY, South Korea — The Pear Blossom Cottage reopened last week after a three-month renovation project, but few servicemembers’ spouses are taking advantage of the new facilities, official say.

Eight Pear Blossom Cottages, located at bases occupied by the 2nd Infantry Division near the border between North and South Korea, are drop-in centers for the more than 800 non-command-sponsored spouses and children living in Area I.

The families, in South Korea unofficially, have paid their own way here and live in off-base housing while soldier husbands or wives complete their tours.

Polly Hancock, who moved from the Camp Howze Pear Blossom Cottage to take over management of the revamped Camp Casey facility, said only a few women and children visited this week.

Before the renovations about 15 women and children visited each day, she said.

“There are a lot more women out there. I just need to let them know about Pear Blossom Cottage,” said Hancock, an employee of Army Community services, which runs the military-funded cottages.

“Off post I see ladies and kids of spouses. I ask them if they know about Pear Blossom Cottage, but most say they have never heard of it. I am starting an outreach program to meet families and promote the cottage and let people know it is a safe place for them to come,” she said.

Each cottage includes a kitchen, laundry room, big-screen television, DVD player and disc collection, books, a sleep room for babies, a sewing room and outdoor play areas.

The renovations at Camp Casey include new floors and cabinets and a new children’s play area. New furniture is to be installed early in 2004.

The Camp Casey facility could accommodate up to 50 adults and children at once — male spouses can use the cottages with their families — but Wednesday afternoon, Wendy Gade and her 1-year-old daughter, AnnaGrace, were the only visitors.

Gade came to South Korea as a non-command-sponsored spouse to be with her husband, Capt. Daniel Gade, serving with the 2nd Battalion, 72nd Armored Regiment. The family has a small three-bedroom apartment off-post that costs 600,000 won (about $502) a month but Gade enjoys the extra space at Pear Blossom Cottage — and its feeling of community.

“Living in a foreign country, it is nice to get together with people who share things in common with you,” Gade said. “It is not easy to communicate with your neighbors here.”

Women who use the facility regard it as a neighborhood hangout and ask the manager for advice on day-to-day problems such as transportation.

“A lot of the girls use the laundry because they don’t have washers and dryers at home. Most are here for under a year because their husbands are only here for a year. The women don’t usually stay for the whole tour so they don’t want to invest in their own appliances,” Gade said.

Another regular visitor, Michelle Clinton, whose husband, Capt. Darrin Clinton, is with the 1-15th Field Artillery, said Pear Blossom Cottage is a great place to meet other spouses.

“We do crafts here and go on outings together. It is better than staying at home where our living space is restricted,” she said.

For more information about the cottages, call DSN 732-7779.

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