Community volunteers lauded, celebrated

More than 2,000 volunteers provided local organizations over $4.5 million in labor costs during 2011

U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart honored its volunteer force at the Patch Community Club during the annual Volunteer Recognition Ceremony April 5.
More than 100 local volunteers, along with community members and leaders, gathered to celebrate.

Some 2,000 residents of the Stuttgart military community volunteered during 2011, contributing more than 213,000 hours to assist local organizations.
At a time of restructuring and financial belt tightening, those hours made a significant difference in the community and translated to a savings of more than $4.5 million to the Stuttgart military community, according to Col. Carl D. Bird, USAG Stuttgart commander.

Though every volunteer is significant, 42 individuals and 16 organizations and groups were recognized for going above and beyond in their efforts to better the community.

Master Sgt. Rodolfo Fuentes, senior enlisted advisor for the Defense Information Systems Agency-Europe operations division, won the Military Volunteer of the Year award for the second consecutive year.

Fuentes, who volunteered over 500 hours for twelve different local organizations, says he was motivated by his co-workers who also donate their time.

“You have to make time to do it, and put it on the calendar,” said Fuentes. “There’s always something going on here in Stuttgart, so there’s always an opportunity to volunteer.”

And those opportunities aren’t limited to clerical work or manual labor. Many volunteers find creative ways to help while enjoying their hobbies, like Karen Otto, winner of the Local National Volunteer of the Year award. “For me, volunteering is a gift, said Otto. “A gift to someone else we’re helping, but also to myself, because it’s something I really enjoy doing.”

Otto donates her time and talents to the Black Forest Quilters, a local organization that strengthens German-American bonds through quilting and charity projects.
Together, the group has created over 100 quilts for charity, which are given to wounded warriors and disadvantaged youth. Currently, the quilters are working with a local Boy Scout troop to make and collect quilts for children in a Romanian orphanage.

“Volunteering for me started off small, but it kept growing … it’s kind of like a quilt,” said Otto, who has contributed over 5,000 volunteer hours since joining the group. “You keep adding to it, and it turns into something beautiful.”
Agencies throughout Stuttgart are always on the lookout for new volunteers … Army Community Service, Red Cross, Stuttgart Community Spouses Club, Youth Sports, Stuttgart Theatre Center and United Services Organization, just to name a few.

To become a Stuttgart volunteer, you must register in the Volunteer Management Information System. The program allows you to search and apply for local opportunities and will also record and track the hours you donate. VMIS can be accessed on the Army OneSource website at  www.myarmyonesource.com.

For additional information on volunteer opportunities, contact the USAG Stuttgart Volunteer Coordinator at 431-3330/civ. 07031-15-3330.