NEWSPAPER AWARD: The Savannah Morning News: Fort Stewart, GA
The 3d Infantry Division (Mechanized) is a rapid deployment sight for the United States. The installation for many years has been experiencing deployments of its soldiers from Desert Storm to peace keeping missions in Bosnia and Kosovo which consisted of seven to thirteen (13) months of deployment. The installation had made the determined decision that it would participate in the Make A Difference Day National Volunteer Event in 2001. The 3d Infantry Division (Mechanized) selected the project of cleanup and the beautification of its seventy-three (73) installation housing playgrounds. The majority of the playgrounds were initially constructed between 1977 and 1997. With approximately 15,267 children on the installation constantly using the equipment, the playgrounds were in a state of disrepair. The volunteers included active duty soldiers, family members of active duty soldiers, children of active duty soldiers, including the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers (BOSS), Department of the Army Civilians, members of the Eastern Star, local Boy and Girl Scout Troops, Brownies and local high school students from Bradwell Institute and Liberty County High School. There were at least 500 Make A Difference Volunteers.
Before the cleanup on Saturday, organizations met to coordinate their plans of action. Many of the organizations worked several days before the event to ensure completion on October 27th. Before the morning sunrise, the volunteers gathered at their designated areas. Each volunteer enthusiastically began the tasks of painting the slides, swings, merry-go-rounds and monkey bars. The low temperature of twenty-six degrees did not diminish the spirits of the willing and motivated volunteers. Hundreds of cans of spray paint were quickly used. Passing motorists saw bright colors of white, red, green, blue, yellow, brown and gray. All the playgrounds had heavy layers of pine straw and other debris. Approximately two hundred (200) large garbage bags were used. Each organization that adopted a playground donated materials to complete the project. Residents and small children came out of their homes to join hands with the volunteers to help.
Each playground had special touches added. Volunteers displayed their creative touches with the variety of the paint. The most impressive touch was the American Flag painted on the merry-go-round.
The event was concluded with a community block party for all the volunteers and the housing residents who joined hands together for the day. Volunteers talked among themselves about the hard work, but mostly boasted of how their playground looked -- a "before and after" recollection about how proud each volunteer was on the accomplishments. Many of the volunteers discussed next year project (s) and what other projects that may be adopted. Children enjoyed games and dance contests. Everyone had entered the door prize drawing to include the top prize of a Make A Difference Day t-shirt. Several volunteers expressed delight in seeing the eyes of the children enjoying their "new" playground. It was a great event, but the soldiers' and family members' volunteer service is a normal day-to-day service. This last year the installation contributed 154,515 volunteer hours.