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2003 Newspaper Award - Fort Lewis, Washington

Make A Difference Day 2003 - NEWSPAPER AWARD: Fort Lewis, Washington

NEWSPAPER AWARD: Fort Lewis, Washington

(Tacoma) News Tribune. 760 Fort Lewis volunteers worked on 82 projects. Military personnel and their families collected 4,699 items for donation drives, including 1,000 toys for low-income children, and conducted several cleanups, donating 3,900 hours of work.

Fort Lewis, Washington, is located south of Seattle in the midst of two counties and several major metropolitan areas. For 2002, our centralized Make a Difference Day effort resulted in 768 volunteers adopting 82 projects, giving 3,983 hours of work, collecting 4,699 items for donation drives, and giving $1,414. These numbers reflect a 57% increase in volunteers, a 34% increase in projects, and a 129% increase in hours over last year's effort.

We were especially excited about the diversity of projects and volunteers this year. Volunteers included young children, teens, and adults. Volunteers assisted both needy individuals and large organizations, maintaining old relationships and establishing new ones. Projects stretched across 40 miles and two counties.

One of our biggest off-post projects continues to be assistance for the Washington Soldiers' Home in Orting. This year, 120 volunteers from a Field Artillery Unit gave 480 hours to help with cleaning, yard work, and clearing a nature trail. Volunteers also provided refreshments, visited with veterans, and donated 1,700 minutes worth of phone cards.

The largest on-post project involved the renovation of the Medical Hold Barracks building for Madigan Army Medical Center. 783 volunteer hours and $1300 was donated to this project. Hundreds of soldiers will be able to recuperate in a positive environment.

Volunteers prepared meals, re-decorated and cleaned facilities, painted, removed debris, and visited with residents at the Bread and Roses Community Kitchen and Shelter and the Olympia Manor in Olympia, and at the Catholic Community Services, Charlton Place, and Lakewood Homeless Shelter in Lakewood.

In Steilacoom, volunteers replaced a fence at Perkins Park and repaired the Ira Light Trail. Volunteers also worked for Habitat for Humanity in Puyallup, and collected food for the Gig Harbor Community Food Bank.

Donations continue to be a good way to encourage volunteerism, and Fort Lewis organized several for both on and off-post agencies. Army Community Services' Food Locker program provides holiday and year round assistance to approximately 1,400 Army families in need. Volunteers collected nearly a thousand items for this cause. 'Santa's Castle' assists over 1,500 children a year with Christmas presents for low-income Army families. Volunteers collected over 1,100 toys and coloring books for this agency. Fort Lewis collected 885 toys, games, kitchen items, food items, and baby items for the Fisher House, which provides rooms and hospitality for families of seriously ill hospital patients.

A new off-post donation project this year involved collecting snack items for the Uniformed Service Organization facility at nearby McChord Air Force Base. Other donation drives collected winter coats, phone cards, books on tape, and kitchen items for a local homeless shelter.

We are looking forward to next year, and hope our program continues to grow. But our main goal will continue to be spreading the spirit of volunteerism, through the hearts of individual volunteers and into the traditions of the Fort Lewis community.