Volunteers lauded for community service

They don’t earn any money, but volunteers saved U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart more than $4 million last year.

In 2009, 897 volunteers donated close to 200,000 hours to the community, the equivalent of $4,075,249 in free labor, according to Laura Jean Davis, USAG Stuttgart Army Community Service volunteer coordinator.

Volunteers make the Stuttgart military community a better place to live by adding sports programs and community events that aren’t funded by the garrison, she added.

“[Volunteering] describes and kind of defines what the community is like,” Davis said. “If we didn’t have volunteers to do it, it wouldn’t happen.”

In order to honor them for their time and effort, ACS hosted a Volunteer Recognition Ceremony April 22 in a fest tent on Panzer Kaserne.

“It’s our one chance to bring everybody together and recognize them, and have a very good time,” Davis said.

The event included an outdoor barbecue, bouncy castle and an auction, in which volunteers used “bucks” they earned based on their registered hours to bid on items.  

Before the auction, Ed McCargo, USAG Stuttgart Plans, Analysis and Integration Office director and acting garrison commander at the ceremony, and Command Sgt. Major Anthony M. Bryant, garrison command sergeant major, presented awards to the community’s top volunteers.

The President’s Volunteer Service Award was awarded to 93 volunteers: adults who donated 500 or more hours, youth with 100 or more and student with 250 or more hours.

The President’s Call to Service Award was given to 10 volunteers for giving 4,000 or more hours.

Thirty-two organizations nominated Volunteers of Excellence.

Six people were named “Volunteer of the Year” for the following categories:  youth, local national, military/civilian, retiree and military spouse.

For the volunteers, however, these accolades are just icing on the cake. They do the work for other reasons.

This was apparent to Gen. William E. “Kip” Ward, U.S. Africa Command commander, even as he helped pass out “Volunteer of the Year” awards.

“The emotions I saw in eyes … you do what you do not seeking recognition,” he said to volunteers during the ceremony. “Not because you’re paid, but because you care.”

Why they volunteer

Maj. Ernest Ashley, a Marine, is one example. He helps serve pasta at Böblingen Elementary/Middle School spaghetti dinners and aids ACS and the United Service Organizations in order to make a positive impact on his children.

“Parents are always working, and it’s a good opportunity [for children] to see them in a different light,” he said.

For others, compassion is the driving force behind the extra hours.

Sandy Leshinsky, a Marine spouse, helps women in the military community who are facing breast cancer by driving them to the local hospital and explaining the German hospital customs.

“I’m able to advocate for the families. I want to be able to improve their quality of life,” said Leshinsky, who went through treatment for breast cancer herself.

Courtney Sensenig, a Navy spouse, also helped community women last year. She donated more than 800 hours to the Mothers of Preschool Children program, which offers mothers a place to socialize with free child care once a month.

“I volunteer with MOPS because I have been a mom with a deployed husband and young children, and I know how it feels to be in a hard place and feel really lonely,” Sensenig said.

 “We couldn’t have MOPS without volunteers,” she added. “The quality of life [here] would be greatly, greatly diminished without some of our volunteers.”

Additional benefits

In addition, volunteering comes with a slew of benefits for children and adults, Davis said. These include a free volunteer resume, which can lead to college acceptance or scholarships, as well as career jobs.

“Seventy-five percent of volunteers that come through ACS are now employed somewhere in the community,” Davis said.

However, to reap these rewards, including recognition and “bucks” at the annual ceremony, volunteers need to register their hours online through the Volunteer Management Information System.

Davis holds open-door VMIS training every Friday from 9 to 11 a.m. in the ACS office, Building 2915, Panzer Kaserne.

For more information, call ACS at 431-3330/civ. 07031-15-3330.