Human Animal Bonding Program
Aisha is a therapy dog in training for the Human Animal Bonding program at Fort Sill which provides dogs to comfort Soldiers and patients.

FORT SILL, Okla.-- In June, the American Red Cross at Fort Sill expanded some of its offices from Reynolds Army Community Hospital on the third floor to the third floor of the Welcome Center in Building 4700.

The new office space will allow more administrative work and program information to be available to newcomers and others visiting the building. The office in the hospital will continue to focus on programs in the building.

For the American Red Cross, it is important to be in a building like the Welcome Center.

"People can come upstairs and they can immediately find out about volunteer opportunities in their community as they are processing in," said Rob Rogers, Fort Sill American Red Cross station manager. "Also, it's well known within the community and everybody stops here, so this is a great place to be to serve Fort Sill."

The Fort Sill Red Cross is part of the organization's Service to the Armed Forces section that assists service members and their families around the world. They can follow up on emergency communications that are received at four national call centers, one of which is on Fort Sill. The call centers can send an emergency message to or from conflict zones as well as military bases in other countries. The American Red Cross can also give emergency funds on behalf of the Army Emergency Relief Fund when necessary and only after an emergency communication.

The Fort Sill Red Cross is always looking for volunteers from teenagers to adults to fill a variety of positions including their Mother's Outreach Program, Human Animal Bonding, Youth Volunteer Summer program, Library and Administrative Assistants.

"It's really about skills building and opportunity building. We have a lot of different opportunities for that," said Rogers. "I think most of the time we will find opportunities to use your skills. It is a question of how you want to be involved in your community."

One of the great things about volunteering for the Red Cross is that volunteers can work around any schedule from just two hours a week to a 40-hour work week. By logging the volunteer hours in the Volunteer Management Information System, the hours will follow to the next installation and help towards future job opportunities. The skills and work experience gained can also follow into future jobs.

Leah Lauterberg is the Human Animal Bonding Chairperson at the Fort Sill Red Cross.

"We bring in certified therapy dogs and we do visitations over at Reynolds, the Bleak Troop Medical Clinic on the basic training side, and we are partnering more with the Warrior Transition Unit now," said Lauterberg.

Patients and visitors to these facilities can meet with the dogs and be comforted by interacting with them. The dogs in this program have been pets of community members as well as active duty service members who participate on their own time.

There is a growing need for certified dogs and volunteers to participate in this program. Lauterberg said that the program can help interested volunteers find the resources to certify their pets and only require one or two visits a month during normal hospital hours. The Red Cross also offers $100 a month towards on-post child care to help volunteers.

"Pet therapy in general is high in demand," said Lauterberg. "The benefits have blown people away."

It can also benefit the dog's owner.

"It can be a lengthy process getting the certification but in the end bringing a dog in and seeing the faces on some of those hospital patients is what makes it worth it," said Lauterberg.
For those interested in the program, contact Lauterberg at 616-560-8398.

The volunteers are vital to the Red Cross, says Rogers, because "the Red Cross is a volunteer led organization."

The Red Cross will be reaching out in the next several months with more volunteer opportunities as they continue to work in the Fort Sill Community.

"We're also about to start our dental assistant program where we train Army spouses through the DENTAC facility here on [post] to become dental assistants. That is a skill and a job they can carry with them if they PCS," said Rogers.

The office in the Welcome Center is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. for those interested in volunteer opportunities and programs with the American Red Cross at Fort Sill.

Page last updated Thu August 9th, 2012 at 00:00