Staff Sgt. RoLeen Land, 241st Military Police Detachment, wants his son Deante', 9, to grow up knowing there are people who are less fortunate than him. So Land attended Fort Meade's first Volunteer Fair to find out about volunteer opportunities where he and his son could help others.
"I like to extend a helping hand whenever possible," he said.
Land was one of 75 people to attend the Volunteer Fair held on Sept. 5 at the McGill Training Center. The event, organized by Rushaunda Farmer, Army Volunteer Corps coordinator, was held to give Fort Meade employees and residents a chance to learn about volunteer opportunities on post and in the surrounding communities. Farmer said the event also gave the more than 30 participating organizations a chance to network and to educate prospective volunteers about their important work.
"Fort Meade is right next door and it's a great resource," said Gloria Coliton, coordinator of the Speakers, Tutors Achievement, Retention and Success (STAR) program at the Woodland Job Corps Center in Laurel. STARS provides mentors and tutors for youth ages 16 to 24. Coliton said 74 percent of the young people enrolled in the program do not have a high school diploma.
"The volunteer tutors and mentors help students achieve their academic and personal goals," she said, noting that in addition to the GED, volunteers help students prepare for the Army Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test. She said many students who complete the program enlist in the military, which is why recruiting volunteers from Fort Meade to work in the program is important.
Colition said Fort Meade employees and service members have the discipline and life experience to serve as positive role models for the students.
Terry Lehr, program administrator of Anne Arundel County Meals on Wheels, said the organization, which delivers meals to people who are homebound, has a client who lives on Fort Meade. "She (the client) lives with her son who is in the military and because of the security on post, we can only deliver to her when her son is at home," she said.
Lehr said Meals on Wheels is a "volunteer driven" organization and that she came to the fair to recruit a group of volunteers who would be willing to serve prospective clients on base. She said there may be retired service members and disabled individuals on post who might benefit from Meals on Wheels services. Lehr also said volunteers could help deliver meals to clients in Laurel and Odenton.
"Without volunteers we couldn't do it," she said, noting that volunteers help keep the organization's costs down and maintain its quality. "If we don't get more volunteers, we might have to create a waiting list for clients like other Meals on Wheels affiliates in the state," Lehr explained.
Prospective volunteers at the fair visited display tables manned by a wide range of organizations including the Baltimore Maritime Museum, the United Service Organization, Happy Helpers for the Homeless, Fort Meade's Officer's Wives Club and Fort Meade's Relocation Readiness Program.
Tech Sgt. Tequela Bulou, a Reservist with the 459th Aero Staging Facility, said she attended the fair because she was seeking a volunteer position that allowed her to work with the homeless. "I want to help people, to see a smile on their face," Bulou said. "To know that I helped someone in a difficult time."
Bulou said the fair was well organized and that the organizations provided valuable information and answered many of her questions. She said she was particularly interested in volunteering with Happy Helpers for the Homeless and Citizens, a program that matches volunteers with people who have intellectual disabilities.
Farmer said she first organized a volunteer fair when she worked as a volunteer coordinator for Army Community Service in Weisbaden, Germany several years ago.
As Fort Meade volunteer coordinator, Farmer matches prospective volunteers with post organizations. She said many of the installation's 1,300 volunteers donate their time for several reasons, including the desire to help others and the need to develop marketable job skills.
"I would like to make the Volunteer Fair an annual event that gets bigger and better each year," Farmer said.