FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Throughout the last year, Fort Jackson volunteers have given more than 35,000 hours of their time, not counting the numerous hours invested in family readiness groups. For their efforts, the volunteers were recognized in a ceremony Friday at the Solomon Center, which culminated with the naming of Fort Jackson's volunteers of the year and inductees into the Volunteer Hall of Fame.

"It is vitally important that we recognize all the people who contribute to make Fort Jackson the great place that it is," said Maj. Gen. James Milano, Fort Jackson's commanding general, during the ceremony. "I know time is the most precious resource in all of our lives. ... The fact that you volunteers whom we're going to recognize here give of your time - that means a lot to me; it means a lot to my wife; and it means a lot to all the leadership."

Volunteers are involved in many aspects of the Fort Jackson community - from mentoring school children to providing clerical services.

"We can't function without coaches in the youth sports program. We can't function without volunteers in the Thrift Shop. We can't function without mentors and school volunteers," Milano said. "All those things and countless other ones require volunteers, people who give of their time for which they're not getting paid."

Lauren Hearon, who was recognized as the youth volunteer of the year, said she volunteers because she feels the need to help others. "I really enjoy helping a lot of people out and reaching out to people who may not have the ability to do what I do or to have what I have," Hearon said. The 18-year-old Richland Northeast High School senior was nominated by the 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment for her work as an Army Family Action Plan teen delegate, her work with wounded warriors and families of deployed Soldiers and her efforts in helping distribute 70,000 donated toys to families on Fort Jackson.

In addition, Hearon volunteers with the student athletic department at her school. Hearon said she feels proud and excited for being recognized by the Fort Jackson community.

"It's exciting that a lot of people notice (the) work that you've done," she said. "I'm very glad to have this opportunity to receive this (award). I feel very thankful."

For Samantha Tello, this year's volunteer of the year in the family member/civilian category, the recognition came as a surprise. "I had no idea," Tello said. "I was just excited to be nominated."

Tello, whose husband, Mahoma, is a drill sergeant with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment, was nominated for her efforts with the 2-13th FRG. Among other things, she serves as the battalion's FRG leader, developed a standard operating procedure for the FRG, recruited volunteers and planned events.

"I started volunteering a few years ago when I was at Fort Huachuca, (Az.); and I met a wonderful group of women there," Tello said. "I thought, 'You know, we can do that here.' I'm just trying to pass it on." Tello said the biggest reward for her is seeing family members enjoy coming to events.

"I volunteer for the families," she said. "I volunteer because I want things to be better for them. I want (being stationed at Fort Jackson) to be a very smooth experience and something very positive for them."

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