FORT SILL, Okla. -- Volunteer Week is April 22-26, and this year's theme is "Volunteers - Strengthening a Nation."

Every April, volunteers are recognized and honored for their selfless service during Volunteer Week.

"With dwindling budgets and a challenging job market, volunteers make an incredible impact on the community," said Laurie Batule, Army Volunteer Corps program manager. Throughout the month, commanders have recognized family readiness group volunteers.

Also, Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general, and his wife, Connie, have hosted volunteer appreciation coffees for agency and organization volunteers at the Polo Club.

The April recognition activities culminate April 26 at 6 p.m. with the Helping Hands awards ceremony, a free dinner event open to all Fort Sill volunteers at the Patriot Club.

In addition to celebrating the work done by those great volunteers, the system used to track the hours, the Volunteer Management Information System, is also being recognized as an invaluable tool.

"In 2011 there were 1,789 active users who logged in 111,277 hours," said Batule. "In 2012, we continued to stress the importance of this program and our volunteers stepped up and used VMIS and it really showed in the numbers. From January to December 2012, there were 2,114 active users who logged in 120,459 volunteer hours."

Batule said retirees, active-duty Soldiers, Department of Army civilians and their families really are strengthening the nation.

"We have Soldiers and family members volunteering in every aspect of the community like the Armed Services YMCA Soldier's Closet and at the airport Welcome Center, the Red Cross, the Veterans Affairs, the Thrift Shop and at Family and MWR events like the Easter Egg Hunt, Oktoberfest and the July 4th concert."

Using VMIS is a win-win situation for everyone. Soldiers and their families who use the system have an official record of their volunteer time that moves with them from installation to installation.

With an official volunteer service record, Soldiers are able to justify a Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal and receive 10 points on the E-5 and E-6 promotion boards. College scholarships and job applications are also enhanced with an official volunteer service record. Many volunteers are hired as a result of sharing their time and talent with organizations and agencies.

"Our volunteers step up every day and improve the quality of life for our friends and neighbors in the Fort Sill and local communities," Batule said, "It's great there is a system in place to officially track the incredible number of hours served by these great volunteers."

For more information about VMIS and volunteer opportunities in the Fort Sill area, go to and click on Volunteer Tools or call Batule at 580-442-4916.