<b>FORT JACKSON, S.C. </b> -- Military and civilian members of the Army Reserve's 81st Regional Support Command traded their Army Combat Uniforms and business attire for work boots and gloves during a community project on Sept. 26.

Drenched from coastal storms that hovered over the entire East Coast, Soldiers and civilians assigned to Fort Jackson's newest tenant took a day away from their busy schedules to help their new neighbors and the Columbia, S.C., community.

Leonette Slay, the 81st RSC director of human resources, said the team volunteered to clean up a local family shelter that provides transitional housing for families while they look for a permanent alternative.

"Giving back to the community is an extension of one of the Army's core values of selfless service," Slay said. "The ethos of selfless service means not only serving fellow Soldiers and their families without regard to self, but also the larger community that we are pledged to support and defend."

Armed with rakes, shovels and a strong appetite to help others in need, the dozen or so group members quickly assembled and tackled the labor-intensive project with a positive attitude.

Staff Sgt. Patricia Stewart, a resource management specialist who is originally from South Haven, Mich., said she enjoyed volunteering in the Columbia area and looks forward to future community projects with the 81st RSC.

"I feel that I am blessed and to give something back to the community will make a difference," she said. "The time and effort, especially during the weather limitations, showed the community that there are people who really care."

Stewart joined the 81st RSC as an Active Guard Reserve after spending 10 years on active duty. She is also a first-time volunteer in the local community.

"It made me appreciate life just a little bit more," she said. "It also made me happy to help others, knowing that they appreciated our help."

With more than 30 years of volunteering on her life resume, Slay, who is originally from West Point, Miss., and a colonel in the Army Reserve, said it was important to give back to the community.

"I feel strongly that everyone has skills, and they should give back to the world as much as they are able," Slay said. "Also, volunteering always results in a more positive self-image and often leads to other opportunities, such as becoming friends with people from different backgrounds or different parts of town."

As the team carried boxes of trash, yard debris and recyclable items outside, nearby residents continually thanked them for their support for their community.

"I really hope that they appreciate life and understand that no matter what you do to help others, it's a heartwarming experience," Stewart said about the thankful neighbors.

As the command officially begins business Oct. 1, the day's event gave a jump start on working together as Soldiers and civilians as one team.

"These few hours contributed to teambuilding for our new organization and allowed us to learn new things about each other," Slay said.

Chief Warrant Officer Betty Agnew, a human resources technician assigned to the 81st RSC, knows all too well about communities assisting those in need.

"Taking time for others is one of my life goals, to always give back and give to others in need," she said. "As a child growing up, there were times when our family needed assistance. Key organizations provide that assistance."

Agnew said having that support during critical periods made her appreciate and value what volunteering can mean to an individual or families in need.

"Giving of my time, service and finance is just a small way of returning to others some of the abundant blessing I've received during my lifetime," Agnew said. "It's a joy to be able to give and I'm truly thankful and joyful to be able to do it."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16