USAG Stuttgart volunteers ‘make a difference’ every day

Make A Difference Day, this year celebrated on Oct. 22, is the largest day of volunteering in the U.S., with millions of people on a single day helping to change the world.

But here in U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, volunteers are present every day, manning the phones at Army Community Service, coaching youth sports, cooking and serving food at the United Service Organizations, mentoring high school students after school … even writing and taking photos for this newspaper.

Laura Davis, the former Army Community Services volunteer corps coordinator for USAG Stuttgart, said that each year more volunteers step forward to help the community.

In 2010, some 2,000 volunteers donated over 200,000 hours of their time, saving the garrison more than $4 million in labor costs, according to Davis.

Master Sgt. Rudolfo Fuentes, the operations division senior enlisted advisor for the Defense Information Systems Agency Europe, has been volunteering for over 10 years.

In 2010, he helped out at the community post office and at the library.

Fuentes, last year’s Military Volunteer of the Year,  said it does not take a big chunk of time to make a difference. He encourages time-strapped people to volunteer just one hour a week.

“If we get 1,000 community members to do this, we provide 4,000 hours to all the amazing organizations that support us daily,” Fuentes said. In today’s climate of reduced funding and staffing shortages, volunteers have a powerful impact within the military community.

Tanya Young, a volunteer at the USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs Office, donated her talent as a writer for this newspaper during a time when the office was understaffed.

Her stories helped to inform and educate community members on school and language programs, community events and USAG Stuttgart energy-saving activities.

Young said that her experiences as a volunteer have been enriching and fulfilling. She was able to learn new skills and maintain her proficiency in reporting and writing for a newspaper, after several years out of the workforce.

But according to Young, the most rewarding thing about volunteering in a military community is knowing — and being reminded on a regular basis — that many of the programs and events being offered wouldn’t be possible without volunteers who devote their time and talents.

April Adkins, another dedicated USAG Stuttgart volunteer, said that making people smile by simply helping out is the most rewarding thing. Adkins donates her time to plan religious special events such as gospel concerts and teaches Sunday school and Bible studies.

Last year, she received the Presidents Volunteer Service Award, yet explained that the real prize for her is not the award, but the ability to help others. By donating their precious time and effort, these volunteers not only make their communities a better place to live, they make their lives better.

They certainly keep this community moving forward.

You, too, can be that person who makes a difference, not just on Oct. 22, but every day. Just contact the local Army Volunteer Corps coordinator and find out how.