While most people work to make a buck, there are some who work to make a difference.

On April 14, the Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem communities honored the volunteers who made differences on the installations and in neighborhood communities in an Installation Volunteer Recognition Ceremony.

The ceremony, held at The Commons at Fort McPherson, gave the 392 volunteers a spot in the limelight and be honored for their service, all while enjoying a lunch provided by The Commons staff.

"You are the glue that keeps the community together," Howard Butler, U.S. Army Garrison (USAG) deputy commander, told the volunteers, adding much of Fort McPherson's longevity can be attributed to volunteers who helped the installation run in its 125 year history. "Give yourselves a round of applause."

Besides a round of applause, all the volunteers received a certificate of appreciation. Other select volunteers were awarded commander's awards for community service. Other awards included volunteer of the year, civilian volunteer of the year, military volunteer of the year, oldest volunteer and youngest volunteer (see sidebar for winners).

Chuck Richmond, a retired major and DA Civilian, said volunteering is important, a major reason why he continues to volunteer even at 91 years of age. Richmond received the oldest volunteer award. "You don't have enough people to do all that's required to be done," said Richmond, who volunteers at the Fort McPherson Catholic Church.

Richmond has been volunteering at the church since becoming a member in the 1970s, although with the closing of Fort McPherson in September, he said he will probably leave his volunteering days behind.

Young blood, such as youngest volunteer Andrea Ingram, 9, daughter of Jan Ingram, religious education contractor for the USAG Chapel Office, will still keep the volunteer spirit alive, even after the base closes. Andrea, who helps set things up at the Chapel Center for Mass and Sunday school, said her volunteerism comes from a desire to help, and that as she gets older, she hopes to volunteer at other places.

"She does what you ask her to do," said her mother Jan, adding volunteerism is something she stresses to her children. "Community service is good because it teaches people to value life, people and stuff in general," she said. "You can't just take, take, take. You have to give in order to take." Even if all one has to give is small, Jan said it is still important to give that service. "There are people less fortunate than you. A little deed can make a big difference," Jan said.

And little deeds can add up to big numbers. During the presentation, the Army Volunteer Corps advisory council presented a check to Butler for $489,586.82 that symbolized the value of the hours of service volunteers contributed. Though the value of their work could be measured, Butler said it could never be repaid, keeping in line with author Shery Anderson's quote that "Volunteers don't get paid, not because they're worthless, but because they're priceless."

"We can't repay you, we can only say thank you from the bottom of our hearts," Butler said.

For some volunteers, like Lt. Col. Paula Martin, U.S. Army Forces Command G-3 readiness officer, the biggest thanks came from seeing the difference she made. Martin, who was awarded military volunteer of the year, has been volunteering with the at YouthForce program at Grady High School since 2008. Once a week, for 1 hour and 45 minutes, she teaches students there life, leadership and financial skills to prepare them for later life.

"We teach students how to be productive citizens," Martin said. Martin, who was attracted to YouthForce due to working with youth at her church, Red Oak United Methodist Church, Stockbridge, said she has seen that goal accomplished. "I went to one kid's graduation," Martin said, adding the student later came back to school to mentor others just as Martin did for him.

That building of bridges to better someone's life is what volunteering is all about, Butler said, illustrating his point by reading Will Allen Dromgoole's poem, "The Bridge Builder," a poem about a man who builds a bridge across a chasm even though he will never get a chance to use it. "You build it for people who come after," Butler said. "Volunteering is all about building bridges."

Page last updated Thu April 21st, 2011 at 11:30