• Marilynn Bailey, volunteer coordinator, pins a corsage onto Esther Lovell during her induction into the Volunteer Hall of Fame in 1997. Lovell, now 84, has worked as a volunteer in various capacities at Fort Jackson since 1970.

    Volunteer served four decades

    Marilynn Bailey, volunteer coordinator, pins a corsage onto Esther Lovell during her induction into the Volunteer Hall of Fame in 1997. Lovell, now 84, has worked as a volunteer in various capacities at Fort Jackson since 1970.

  • Lovell is shown here with her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Huerta "Jimmy" Lovell, and daughter in this 1950s photo.

    Volunteer served four decades

    Lovell is shown here with her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Huerta "Jimmy" Lovell, and daughter in this 1950s photo.

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- A few hours a week has turned into 40 years of selfless service for one of Fort Jackson's most loyal volunteers.

Esther Lovell, 84, who works in the ID card office, began volunteering at Fort Jackson in October 1970 while her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Huerta "Jimmy" Lovell, was finishing up a one-year tour of service in Korea.

During the 21 years prior, the native of former East Germany had accompanied her husband all around the world - from West Germany to Virginia, to France and Honduras - in support of his military career.

As she and her daughter settled in Columbia, the at-home mom decided she wanted to give back to the military community and to Soldiers who had played such a significant role in her own life.

"I was always grateful for American Soldiers, and I wanted to do something to keep busy," Lovell said. "The best thing (about volunteering) besides getting out of the house was doing something that I knew I could do to help."

She registered with Fort Jackson's Army Community Services volunteer program and began her first assignment stuffing folders for packets that would be given to Soldiers during in- and out-processing.
About a month before her husband was scheduled to return to Fort Jackson in 1971 to retire after 28 years of service, he unexpectedly became ill and died.

Despite her heartache, Lovell continued to volunteer at Fort Jackson, deciding it was one way for her to remain a part of the Army family.

Throughout the next four decades, Lovell gave a few hours of her time every Thursday; offering a helping hand at the lending closet, as a receptionist at on-post child care facilities and manning the front desk of the ID card office now located at the Strom Thurmond building. Lovell even made uniforms for her fellow volunteers in the early '70s.

"I insisted (ACS) get material and I made all of (the volunteers) the same uniforms," Lovell said.
Today, Lovell is the person responsible for packaging and shipping out ID cards turned in by personnel who come in to replace expired ones. She also ensures the proper forms are mailed and accounted for.

"She saves us four to five hours per week of manpower," said Harvey Shiver, volunteer administrative assistant who has known Lovell for eight years. "She has been a great asset to the office. Without her, a (human resources assistant) would be pulled away from serving customers to do filing and mailing documents."

Shiver credits Lovell, who also assists with answering phones and providing up-to-date information to customers, for helping the DHR maintain its 98 percent average for customer service satisfaction.

"She has always provided outstanding customer service," Shiver said. "She always has a smile on her face and can be counted upon to do a great job.

"She loves what she does," Shiver continued. "And she doesn't like anyone else doing her job. She expects us to have everything ready for her when she gets in to the office. If we don't have her log books ready, she will let us know. It's like having your mother at work. We try to blame each other to get the heat off of us."

It's Lovell's maternal personality that makes her a joy to be around, Shiver said, especially because he knows every Thursday, "Ms. Esther" will bring in some type of homemade baked goods.

Sharon Jackson, team supervisor of the ID card office, who has known Lovell for nearly 11 years, agreed that Lovell has a kind heart, but more importantly, she's someone she can always depend on.

"There are many days that she didn't feel well but still came in to work because she felt her job needed her," Jackson said. "She truly is a reliable person and someone I feel honored to have as part of my department."

Shiver and Jackson both said they hold Lovell in high regard.

"Anyone who dedicates time and service to our troops and their family members for over 40 years deserves a pat on the back," Shiver said.

Page last updated Thu March 3rd, 2011 at 08:05