Exchange fills important role in community
March 15, 2013
FORT BENNING, Ga. (March 13, 2013) -- The Exchange at Fort Benning doesn't just provide its customers with convenient on-post shopping options; it also gives back to the community in other ways, Exchange officials said.
Roughly two-thirds of Exchange earnings are paid to the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, with the other third used to renovate Exchange facilities or build new facilities, such as the new facilities at Patton Village and Harmony Church.
In 2011, Exchangewide earnings exceeded $200 million, with Soldiers and Families reaping the benefits.
"It helps to fund different things like your child care centers, the bowling alleys, pools and pretty much any kind of recreational activity that we have on post," said Vincent James, Fort Benning Exchange general manager. "We give back to the community, and if customers shop with the Exchange, they can see their money being given back to the community."
Purchases made at Exchange shops over the past 10 years have helped to provide a total of more than $2.4 billion for programs such as youth services and post services such as gyms and aquatic centers.
James said the Exchange is proud of the role it has within the Fort Benning community, and that he knows the Exchange plays an important role in improving the quality of life for Soldiers and Families.
"The Exchange really has a sense of accountability to the community," James said. "We've got these huge facilities, and we're constantly renovating or building new facilities. If you look at the economy now, there are so many businesses closing their doors, but the Exchange is still moving forward and doing what it can to be an asset for the community and improve the quality of life for military personnel and their Families."
However, the Exchange does more than simply give money to DFMWR.
The Exchange is also one of the largest employers of military Families, as approximately 23 percent of the more than 42,000 Exchange associates come from military Families.
Kristine Groenenboom-Newbold, human resources manager for the Exchange, said that Fort Benning currently has 117 military spouses working at Exchange facilities, and that the Exchange is always looking for more to come on board.
Newbold said one of the major benefits for spouses working for the Exchange is that if their Soldier has to PCS, the Exchange will work to find the spouse a job near their new home.
"What we really want our spouses to know is that we will do everything we can to maintain employment continuity so that when they know their Soldier is going to PCS, we can start looking for a new position at another Exchange in their same category," Newbold said. "We can't guarantee pay will stay the same, but if we can maintain continuity, we can help them maintain their benefits.
"I'll get emails from my counterparts all over the world saying they have somebody coming my way and to keep an eye out for them. We constantly email one another, so we can try and help as many spouses as we can."
And while many Exchange jobs may be entry-level, Newbold said just getting a foot in the door could be an important first step to more lucrative employment.
"The day you start with us, you can apply for internal positions, which are any jobs that are considered a promotion or have more pay," Newbold said. "Those are always posted internally first, so once you start working with the Exchange, those jobs are available to you."
Newbold said the Exchange constantly fills intermittent food service and retail positions, and all military Family members are encouraged to apply at applymyexchange.com.
James said the hiring of military Family members is just another way that the Exchange attempts to do its part in enhancing the Fort Benning community.
"The hiring program is a big way that we try to help out," James said. "It's always fun to see when the units redeploy how many vacation requests we'll have so spouses can spend time with their Soldiers. So, not only do we try to provide the community with convenient shopping and give money back to recreational activities, but we also try to help out as many military Families as we can by giving them jobs."
And since the Exchange is constantly looking for new ways to improve the quality of life at Fort Benning, James said the Exchange welcomes any and all feedback from customers.
"We attend all the community events and try to get feedback on what people are looking for," James said. "We really try to be proactive in meeting the customers' needs. We have a services manager that will go out and look for new businesses that we might be able to bring on post. Anything we can do to try and improve the quality of life, we will do. We're an important piece of the pie. We're not just a regular retail organization, we're part of the Fort Benning Family."
Customer feedback was one of the primary reasons for the construction of the Exchange facilities at Patton Village, something James said goes to show that Exchange officials are willing to listen to any suggestions.
"We just want to see if they're finding what they're looking for and if we're meeting all their needs," James said. "We always want to provide better service, and there's always room for improvement."
James said customers can open a dialogue with the Exchange by providing feedback in person at any Exchange facility or by visiting shopmyexchange.com.