Stuttgart honors 2018 community volunteers with ceremony, luau 

The cake is cut, opening the Hawaiian-themed ice cream social that followed the Stuttgart Volunteer Recognition Ceremony, April 25, on Patch Barracks. Photo by Holly DeCarlo-White

By Holly DeCarlo-White
USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs

The Army-wide Volunteer Appreciation Week concluded in Stuttgart with a Volunteer Recognition Ceremony and Hawaiian–themed ice cream social at the Patch Community Club, April 25.

The annual ceremony honored all registered volunteers across the Stuttgart military community while also awarding individual nominees in six “Volunteer of the Year” categories. A panel of judges brought together by Army Community Service determines the winners based on responsibility, impact, contributions, and character.

Awardees were Keona Kaneshiro, Youth; Rebecca Miller, Civilian; Sgt. Corbett Lowder, Military; Ronald Taubitz, Senior (age 55 and up); Sabrina Wilson, Spouse; and RB Zentrum, Team.

“I choose to volunteer because I have always enjoyed helping others and it is very fulfilling to me. I feel it is a way to not only improve the lives of my own family, but those of our school and community as well. I hope to be an example to my children that with initiative, hard work, and kindness, you can accomplish some amazing things, as they are who inspire me to volunteer,” said Sabrina Wilson, RB Zentrum volunteer.

Volunteer Team  is a new award category this year.

“The Volunteer Team category was added based on a recommendation during one of our quarterly Volunteer Advisory Council meetings. The Council felt it was important to recognize a team because so much volunteer work is done as a group,” said Charlene J. Schuler, ACS volunteer coordinator. “Rather than nominating five individuals for doing similar work, those five could be nominated as an actual team.”

Top contributing volunteers also received the Commander’s Volunteer Award of Excellence in recognition of their service of more than 1,000 hours in 2018. Recipients were Jennie Baumback, Nathan Dehnke, Gudrun Kaper, Sabrina Loviner, Dawn Reynolds Olson and Sabrina Wilson.

Commander’s Volunteer Award of Excellence recipients (or their designees) pose for a group shot, April 25 on Patch Barracks. From left, garrison senior enlisted leader Command Sgt. Maj. Toesa Tia, Sabrina Wilson, Dee Denny (accepting for Sabrina Loviner), Tina Ranum (accepting for Nathan Dehnke), Jennie Baumback, Monica Bryan (accepting for Dawn Reynolds-Olson) and deputy to the garrison commander Kathryn McNeely. Photo by Holly DeCarlo-White

According to Schuler, a total of 453 registered volunteers performed 61,756.90 hours of registered service in the calendar year 2018. The national civic organization Independent Sector calculates the value of each volunteer hour at $25.43—an estimated total cost savings of $1,577,477.97 for the garrison. Kathryn McNeely, deputy to the garrison commander, and USAG Stuttgart Command Sgt. Maj. Toese Tia were presented with a symbolic check in this amount to display Stuttgart’s volunteer’s total contributions.

“Volunteers understand that through service they help create new visions and dreams,” McNeely said. “They change this community for the better each and every day… If it were not for volunteers, many programs and services needed for family wellness could not be provided. In helping others, volunteers lead by example, and leave a legacy of love and service to the children of tomorrow.”

Join the Stuttgart community of volunteers
Volunteer opportunities through ACS come with many benefits, including the gaining valuable experience on par with employment experience. Volunteers can learn new skills by exploring different careers, make new friends in the Stuttgart community and develop networking opportunities to jumpstart careers, not to mention add experience to a resume or scholarship application.

Agencies throughout Stuttgart are always on the lookout for new volunteers, such as the Red Cross, USO, Youth Sports, Stuttgart Theatre Center and more.

The Volunteer Management Information System tracks volunteer hours for volunteer service medals and the annual volunteer recognition ceremony. For additional information on volunteer opportunities, stop by ACS, Building 2915 on Panzer Kaserne, or call 431-3362 or 07031-15-3362.

A salute to the colors begins the volunteer awards presentation, held in the Patch Community Club, April 25. Photo by Holly DeCarlo-White

Why We Volunteer:

The following are statements by garrison volunteers as to why they choose to serve the Stuttgart military community:

“After retiring from University of Maryland University College, after about 30 years of teaching U.S. Military personnel, I began about five years ago volunteering both for ACS and at the VAT/UTAP office in order to better stay in touch with the American community in Stuttgart, as well as to continue sharing my knowledge and experience with my fellow Americans. I can wholeheartedly recommend volunteer work in the military community where we are both needed and appreciated; it’s a great way to spend a few hours a day, week, or month making life a little better, and more meaningful, for all concerned.” Ronald Taubitz, Stuttgart Family & MWR Tax Relief Office

“I was inspired by my Dad, who is in the Army, to become a volunteer because I wanted to help with service to the Armed Forces and contribute to my military community. I have learned to organize and execute an event from start to finish, along with how to communicate professionally with people both in person and online. Most importantly, being a part of the American Red Cross organization has taught me to be more selfless in my actions and to understand that all work has a purpose, no matter how small the job.” Keona Kaneshiro, American Red Cross Stuttgart Station 

“I volunteer because it’s a great way to meet people. When I first arrived in Stuttgart, I knew no one. Volunteering allowed me to meet a diverse group of people and to find my place in the community.” Jennie Baumback, Stuttgart Community Spouses Club

“I volunteer as an actor with the Stuttgart Theatre Center because it is an incredibly fulfilling way to serve the community. I am an Army veteran and I served in Iraq on a couple of tours over a decade ago. That experience was both incredible and traumatizing for me as I was wounded in action in 2007. This opportunity to get on stage and take on the personalities of different characters has helped me continue my recovery from that experience and has taught me a new way to cope and grow as a person. I sometimes shudder to think where I would be if not for this opportunity. I may be honored today as a volunteer, but I feel as though I have already received all the reward I could have possibly dreamed for thanks to the Stuttgart Theatre Center staff, volunteers, and supporters. It is I who am humbled to have had the opportunity to share time with you, on and off the stage. Thank you for all the support you have given me these past four years.” Nathan Dehnke, Stuttgart Theatre Center

“I feel it makes life here more fun if Americans have more opportunities to learn some German and get some more information about our history and everyday life.” Gudrun Kaper, Army Community Service German language and cultural instructor

A festive scene at the Hawaiian-themed party held for the garrison’s volunteers at the Patch Community Club Backlot Bar.

“I volunteer at the Thrift Shop because I like to be involved. Helping out at the Thrift Shop allowed me to be busy and to learn a lot about how a business runs. I also enjoyed meeting people and of course, the benefit of the discount on purchases.” Ashleigh Keller, Patch Thrift Shop

“I have been volunteering for one organization or another since I was about 12. Both of my parents instilled a sense of community and service since I was very young. I began volunteering for the USO in 2014 while working for PAC Fleet in Hawai’i. The USO has provided so many service members with a safe haven in both airports and center. I, myself, have used them on so many occasions, not to mention all the concerts and family events which I feel are so important especially for service members and families stationed overseas. I feel very passionate about giving back to an organization that has given so much to the military community.” Petty Officer Crystal Bedney, USO

“I’m part of Special Operations Command Africa J2. This is my second time in Germany and I’ve been here since 2017. I started volunteering because I believed I could be doing something better with my time and why not use it to help in the community.” Staff Sgt. Oscar Melendez, Patch Thrift Shop

“I really enjoy passing on the life lessons I learned through what was then Dependent Youth Activity Sports, not just the athletic skills. Looking back, I am also thankful for the time my father (a career Soldier) spent volunteering to coach some of my teams, and I am grateful for the opportunity to do the same for my daughters.” Lt. Col. Robert Taylor, Stuttgart Theater Center

“My dedication to volunteerism began at a church in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. I was feeding the hundreds of homeless men and women who packed the parking lot and foyer. I heard a weathered voice from the crowd calling my name. I couldn’t imagine who in this sea of strangers could possibly know me. As the voice got louder and closer, I had to stop and turn around. What I saw was a man making his way through the crowd insisting ‘that’s my sister, my blood sister…’ — and I was indeed. I’ve learned that life’s circumstances could have led me to the receiving end of this same soup line. I set my heart to giving my time to helping others who are in need of a hand or just words of encouragement. I have accumulated years of stories and friends as a direct result of giving of my time. Each experience has brought me closer to paying back the debt of gratitude for all those who volunteer to help people like my brother. I am so humbled at the thought of making a positive difference in someone’s life. You made a difference in his.” Valerie Blue, U.S. Africa Command Family Readiness Group

“I came into the Red Cross as a volunteer in 2013, while stationed in Camp Lejeune, where I was also a spouse volunteer with our 3rd Marine Raider Battalion and Family Readiness Program. I have always enjoyed being proactive, out from my usual routine. After settling here in Germany last year, I decided to continue volunteering not knowing that doors would open for me to lead three of our educational outreach programs geared towards elementary students. It has been a very fulfilling experience! I have also volunteered at my kids’ school and at our previous church with the children ministry. I am truly grateful and humbled by this recognition!” Karem Alvarez-Almodovar, American Red Cross Stuttgart Station

(From left) Tawania Kovacs, director of Army Community Service, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Command Sgt. Maj. Toese Tia and Kathryn McNeely, deputy to the garrison commander accept a giant symbolic check representing the worth of the garrison volunteer’s time, April 25, 2019. Photo by Holly DeCarlo-White

“As an Army brat and now a military spouse, I have seen first-hand the impact created by organizations tied to the military. I’ve learned that the opportunities, experiences, friendships, and sense of community they provide can make all the difference in how a family feels about the time spent at a duty station. I have learned that you get from your community what you put into it, whether it be your first or last duty station. I volunteer to give back to the military community that raised me and continues to support me, and to invest in the future of the families that will be here after I am gone.” Nicola Brady, 1-10 Special Forces Group (Airborne) Family Readiness Group

“My husband inspired me to volunteer. I am an immigration attorney and an immigrant, too. I like to put myself in other people’s shoes to help more people on immigration matters. Volunteering is a selfless act through which one can spread love and hope for a better life. It is important because I not only develop existing skills while looking for a job, but also I have a better chance to know more about the community. Through volunteer activities, I learned and gained happiness when utilizing my professional skills and knowledge to benefit others.” Ying-Yen “Patricia” Chang, Stuttgart Law Center

“Throughout my lifetime, I’ve volunteered for many different reasons. Sometimes I’ve volunteered because there was a job to be done and I knew I could help do it. Sometimes I’ve volunteered to be close to my kids – for example, helping out in the classroom or doing work for the PTA. Sometimes I’ve volunteered, like at the theatre, because I love what I’m doing so much, I just want to be there doing it. But one thing I’ve learned is that invariably, I get far more out of volunteering than I put into it. The relationships I’ve made while working alongside or for others have truly been a gift. I’ve felt so much more a part of the Stuttgart community because of volunteering. At the Stuttgart Theatre Center, where I currently spend most of my volunteer time, I’ve made the best friends I have in Stuttgart. Our love for the theater and the unique experiences we have pulling a show together have bonded us. These people have become like family here and being with them makes volunteering no work at all.” Tracy Coffey, PTA

“I made the decision to volunteer in order to stay connected with the military community that I was a part of for over three years. It feels good being able to see the people that directly benefit from the hard work that my colleagues and I put in together. During my time volunteering, I’ve learned that the saying is true – if you love what you do, you never work a single day in your life. I loved my time volunteering and will always remember the people that made every day so enjoyable.” Sabrina Loviner, Stuttgart Community Spouses’ Club

“The reason why I joined the PTSA is to try to make a difference in the kiddos’ lives. Military life is hard, especially on our children. Moving to new schools every few years, and adding moving to a whole new country is even more difficult.  So I decided to be a part of an already amazing PTSA.  It was a great feeling knowing new students were making friends, and when they walked into school, they weren’t alone, but they made friends with students in their classes.  Our school does so many amazing things, and I’m just happy that I had the opportunity to be a part of some of it.” Angie McLaughlin, Robinson Barracks Elementary School Parent Teacher Student Association

“I am inspired by my daughters to volunteer. Volunteering gives me the ability to show them how they can make a positive impact on their community. I also enjoy the fun, laughter, and good times that I have with my fellow volunteers. They keep me grounded. Volunteering is also a great way to keep my resume up to date for future jobs.” Kelly Reilein, Stuttgart Community Spouses Club

“I volunteer because I’ve been given so much, and I enjoy the opportunity to give back what I’ve been so fortunate to have been given. I learned that it’s groups of individuals, doing on behalf of each other, giving according to our strengths, and accepting help to overcome our shortcomings that make our institutions so strong. One of the great things about volunteering – you can give and give, and the only thing it takes from you is time. And volunteering is time well spent. I think volunteering is a chance to show courage, or to learn new things in what might be an unfamiliar environment. Overcoming the fear of the unknown, or putting aside the possibility you might not get it right the first time, is part of volunteering. It’s helped me meet people from many cultures, share my culture with them, and do so in a spirit of shared goals. When I volunteer, I feel like I get back as much as I give.” Dawn Reynolds-Olson, U.S. Africa Command Family Readiness Group 

“My mother inspired me to begin volunteering; she did a lot for the community. Volunteering was a natural thing to do. I volunteer because it is generally a good thing to do and it makes me feel good helping others.” Eunsil Song, USO 

“’I’m a Mom of three kids. I enjoy coaching multiple sports throughout the year to include soccer, basketball, and softball. I enjoy watching the improvements from each player as the season progresses. I coach because I like to be involved with my kids’ activities and because I am passionate about sports.” Elizabeth Stiens, Stuttgart CYS Sports & Fitness

“I started to get involved with the Red Cross to meet people and give back since I did not have a job and had the flexibility. I enjoyed everyone I have met and all the various projects I have done. Being the Station Volunteer Partner gave me a lot of opportunities to meet people and get to know the garrison much better,” Nicola Thompson, American Red Cross Stuttgart Station

“I choose to volunteer because I have always enjoyed helping others and it is very fulfilling to me. I feel it is a way to not only improve the lives of my own family, but those of our school and community as well. I hope to be an example to my children that with initiative, hard work, and kindness, you can accomplish some amazing things, as they are who inspire me to volunteer.” Sabrina Wilson, RB Zentrum

The spirit of Aloha fills the Patch Community Club Backlot Bar as the Stuttgart ohana of volunteers are celebrated, April 25.

“I was always volunteering since day one. When you have free time, you give back. That’s just what you do. You go where help is needed. I love volunteering. There are still so many needs out there. As long as I’m healthy enough I’ll continue to do it. There’s a lot of satisfaction in helping someone. It is little what I’m doing but it is completely fulfilling. I enjoy every bit of it. I am very proud that I am able to do something. I have met so many, many, many good people. I have met so many friends over the years, and they leave, and I stay. It’s Zufriedenheit. Satisfaction in what I have done. It keeps me young! Volunteering is my medicine for staying fit.” Frieda Campbell, USO

“Ever since I was in grade school, all my family members have volunteered in church, school, professional, hobby, and civic organizations. So we are always involved in volunteering, with only our focus in where we volunteer changing over time. My parents are my original volunteer role models. Volunteering is a good way to learn new skills, make friends, and get involved. You don’t have time to wring your hands or be bored if you are rolling up your sleeves! You also realize how good your life is, and get a sense of satisfaction helping others. Many organizations wouldn’t exist or accomplish their missions without volunteers. For the last five years I have been a military spouse and I have learned a lot from other spouse volunteers. It is true that you get more out of volunteering than you put into it.” Ronald Jones, U.S. Africa Command Family Readiness Group

“I volunteer simply because I enjoy meeting all the people.  My wife and I met while volunteering and have since continued to volunteer together.” Sgt. Corbett Lowder, USO

Volunteer Teams

“AFF volunteers are happy to share their knowledge, experience, and skills gained from living on the African continent and within the embassy community to train spouses who are just beginning their tours. It is an honor to support our military families living on the continent to improve their quality of life and help ensure they have the support needed to overcome any obstacle they encounter.” Team AFRICOM Families Forward

“We had the pleasure of building every aspect of RB Zentrum from the ground up for our RB Community, to include creating a brand new private organization for our Stuttgart Garrison. It was so important to be a part of this experience because Robinson Barracks is more isolated and lacks many services and amenities that are available at other installations. That fact motivated us to be advocates and bring those services and amenities to our community. It was most important to us to provide a comfortable and inviting space where everyone is always welcome and to provide some much needed support to all of our community members.” Team RB Zentrum