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May 10, 2010
By Kevin Stabinsky (USAG Fort McPherson)

On April 28, Fort McPherson honored the 769 volunteers who gave their time to making the installation and Fort Gillem better places with a Volunteer Recognition Ceremony held at The Commons at Fort McPherson.

The theme of the event was "Volunteers Build a Better World."

At Fort McPherson, which celebrates its 125th birthday this year and also celebrated public service recognition this week, volunteers have played an important role, said Tina Helmick, volunteer program manager, Army Community Services, adding volunteers continue to make major contributions, even with the installation's upcoming closure due to the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) act.

"I'm amazed how many still volunteer even with BRAC," Helmick said. "We've had more volunteers and hours than the year before. We've had an excellent group of volunteers."

To honor those volunteers, time was set aside to award them with a luncheon, certificates of appreciation, and for 28 select volunteers, a commander's award, Helmick said.

"We honored them because they did such an outstanding job through the year (2009)," Helmick said.

That service totaled 33,607 hours and $680,541.75 worth of work, said Col. Deborah B. Grays, U.S. Army Garrison commander.

Service hours were accumulated over a variety of projects, Grays said.

These included the annual Spring Fest, Family readiness group functions, Make a Difference Day, employment readiness job fairs, relocation readiness program events, Army Volunteer Corps programs, Army Family Action Plan programs, Vacation Bible School programs and Barracks and Single Soldiers dinners, community outreach programs, YouthForce, and tax center assistance.

Without volunteers, Grays said many of the projects that change lives and strengthen the community would not be possible.

"The time, energy, skills and talents you generously lend - again and again - are priceless," she said.

The pricelessness, however, was amplified by budget restraints. Buddy Craven, overall volunteer of the year, said these restaints and personnel shortages were some of the reasons he volunteered his services.

A sampling of his volunteer duties included chapel council vice president, worship coordinator, Bible School assistant, and assistant to veterans and surviving Family members regarding entitlements available from the Veterans Benefits Administration.

Youth volunteer of the year, Rachel Hutchinson, 15, daughter of Lorene Hutchinson, Fort McPherson Protestant Women of the Chapel praise and worship leader, said lack of funds is a big reason people should volunteer.

"Volunteering, I think, is important because without volunteers there would not be enough funds to hire the people needed," she said.

Craven said he felt a debt of allegiance to Soldiers and military Families, and wanted to ensure they had the programs they needed.

"I choose to volunteer as a small way in which I can help ensure that vital information and programs are available to the military community," he said. "There is a deep sense of gratification."

Hutchinson, who volunteered much of her time with children, performing acts like cleaning the post theater or selling food at concessions stands, said she also gets gratification out of her service.

The gratification I get out of it (volunteering) is that I know I pleased God with the talents that he has blessed me with," she said. "It's just the gifts God has blessed me with that I love to share with others."

Many volunteers listed the interaction with others as a reason for their service.

Joy Quade, civilian volunteer of the year, said she loves to get to know and work with people, leading her to volunteer for as many things her schedule allowed.

Many of Quade's volunteer opportunities included participating in the United Service Organization to welcome Soldiers home and serving as a hostess for the Fort McPherson job fair.

"It is part of our duty; I think everyone should volunteer," Quade said. " If everyone gives something to others, then we all would have a better and happier life."

Hutchinson said that better life is not just for people who benefit from the volunteers, but for the volunteers themselves.

Benefits include meeting new people and realizing that contributions help others. Hutchinson said that as a Christian, she also feels volunteering is a great opportunity to share her belief in Christ with others.

For sharing all their talents, the volunteers were thanked repeatedly and encouraged to continue their service.

"I am extremely proud of all your accomplishments," Grays said. "Your efforts and dedication help make our organization better, our community stronger and our world much brighter."

For more information, call Helmick at 464-2773 or visit the Volunteer Management Information System Web site at