Soldiers praised for mentoring youth
Tisha Johnson | Staff Writer | Leavenworth Lamp
Twelve Fort Leavenworth Soldiers received Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medals May 29 at the Richard Allen Cultural Center.
The Soldiers were recognized for their mentoring and tutoring contributions at the center. Phyllis Bass, the center's director, said a teacher from the Leavenworth school district approached her about starting the program. "She said, 'They are losing our children in the third grade,'" Bass said.
Bass said the program is about nine years old and because of the more recent increased involvement of Soldiers, one-on-one tutoring was possible for the first time.
"It has made such a marvelous difference in these children," Bass said. This year, one of the military volunteers took the children to a play in Kansas City and then to dinner. Bass said some of the children had never been to a "sit-down dinner."
Anita Payne is a mother of three boys who benefit from the program. She said the boys get help at the center with whatever they are struggling with at school, and she has seen a difference in their grades and their outlook.
"I wouldn't be surprised if they wanted to join the military," Payne said, laughing. Payne said the volunteers share with the students their experiences in life. She said some of the tutors were in the same shoes as the students at one time.
Fort Leavenworth Garrison Commander Col. Tim Weathersbee presented the awards to the Soldiers. He said while the awards were appropriate, they didn't begin to come close to recognizing the contributions the Soldiers had made.
"You have not only bettered their lives," Weathersbee said, "you have bettered our whole society." Maj. Glenda Steward said she originally brought her niece to be tutored.
"And then they found out about my master's in math," she laughed.
Steward said she works at the Battle Command Training Program and they worked with her schedule so she could volunteer at the center. This year, Steward came to the center three times a week to tutor and mentor. She said many of the students in the program have parents who do not have careers. The program gives the children a chance to be with professional Soldiers who share their stories about education and the military, she said. One of Steward's students, Michelle Foster, will be a senior next year at Immaculata High School. Foster was having trouble with physics, and she was able to get the help she needed to bring her grade up. She said her time at the center helped her to be able to slow down and look at problems.
Fort Leavenworth Army Career and Alumni Program Manager Dr. Bernice Gregory is also a volunteer at the center, helping with reading, writing, social studies and social skills. She said social skills are important for daily living.
"We mentor about being respectful," Gregory said. Maj. Dexter Brookins said he also worked with the students about the importance of respect and discipline. He said he and his fellow mentors fell in love with the students and they look forward to coming back to Leavenworth and the center. Brookins said he learned a lot from the students also.
"Here's what I know about the future," Brookins said. "From watching these kids, America's in good hands."
June 5 Fort Leavenworth Lamp
Fort's Tax Center saves post families $400K in fees
The employees and volunteers of the Fort Leavenworth Tax Center were recognized April 25 for their collective efforts in helping Soldiers and their families file their income tax returns.
Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV hosted an award ceremony for the Tax Center staff, culminating a successful 2008 filing season. Since early January, the Tax Center staff helped 1,905 Soldiers and their families save more than $400,000 in commercial tax preparation fees and helped bring more than $3 million in federal tax refunds back into the community.
Also present at the ceremony was Charles Hampton, an Internal Revenue Service tax consultant with Stakeholder Partnerships, Education, and Communication. Hampton, now in his second year in providing IRS oversight and assistance to Fort Leavenworth, thanked the staff for their efforts during a particularly challenging tax season characterized by last minute tax legislation and the mid-season announcement of "economic stimulus tax rebates." During the ceremony, the 19 volunteer tax preparers on staff received Certificates of Appreciation for Patriotic Civilian Service for their cumulative 2,786 hours served in the Tax Center. The volunteer tax preparers were Michael Ammel, Meg Brunoni, LaDonna Brunson, Cheryl Burney, Brandi Collen, Carl DeRuyscher, Meleah Fearnow, Donna Gotlieb, Cristy Harper, Kathy Hohn, Jeanna Kreps, Jennifer Lear, Allan Lechner, Lucretia McBride, Sharon Moss, Ipek Rudd, Claudia Samouce, Darrell Spratt and Abie Tamayo. Brunson, Burney and McBride each received special recognition as the top volunteers with a combined return count of 323 and 597 volunteer hours.
Five part-time employees received the Commander's Award for Civilian Service, including Erin Kidd, Eiko McDonald, Kari Rydalch, Tracey Sammons and Stephanie Zeigler.
Tax Center NCOIC Spc. Tulsi Rogers received an impact Army Achievement Medal, while Tax Center Manager Dave Smisek was presented with the Commander's Award for Civilian Service and a time off award. Despite the formal closing of the Tax Center, year-round tax services may be coordinated by calling the Legal Assistance Office at 684-4944. Electronic filing of 2007 federal and state returns remains available through Oct. 15. Other tax services available include prior year preparation and amendments, audit and correspondence assistance, tax research, withholding recommendations, and miscellaneous consultations.