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April 22, 2014
Aniesa Holmes

FORT BENNING, Ga., (April 23, 2014) -- For more than a decade, Carolyn Harris has been like a family member to thousands of parents and children of the Fort Benning community.

This year, her contribution as coordinator of the Family Advocacy's First Steps Program was recognized in celebration of National Volunteer Week.

Out of five nominated organizations, First Steps won the Tri-Community Directors of Volunteers Services award during a ceremony April 8 at St. Luke United Methodist Church in Columbus.

"I'm honored and proud that they selected us," she said. "It's just me doing this and I have to recruit and train volunteers to help me do this job."

Harris started as a volunteer for First Steps in 1995 while working at the Child Development Center on post and was hired as program coordinator in 2003. She is responsible for training and overseeing volunteers who visit parents and newborns and provide emotional support, parenting education, referrals to community resources and follow-up contacts.

Program activities include screenings, information and referral, clinic and hospital visits, respite support and other services for the first 90 days.

"I do this because it's needed, every parent needs help whether you're a first-time parent or you're adding another baby into that home," Harris said. "Parenting is one of the most challenging jobs anyone will ever have, and it's a very emotional time. We're either going to educate and empower them with knowledge or strengthen the parenting skills they already have."

Becky Welch, manager of the Family Advocacy Program, said Harris has had a positive impact on the success of the program.

"She's a very positive and happy person," she said. "She really puts Soldiers and Families at the forefront of her job. With her leadership and training of volunteers, the program has really flourished."

Harris said the most rewarding part of her job is knowing that Fort Benning parents are never alone in their journey.

"They're so happy to see me come in and say 'I'm going to be here for you for the next 90 days,'" Harris said. "Babies are born every day, there are no holidays off. I enjoy going to meet new Families and help welcome a new baby into the home."