By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterApril 25, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (April 25, 2013) -- Security guards are often seen as the first line of defense for Fort Rucker, but behind their stoic looks and authoritative presence, many support the local community in their off-duty hours.
Several Fort Rucker Department of the Army security guards volunteered their time to read to children at the Enterprise Head Start program April 16 as a means to give back to the community during their time off, according to Marvin Brandon, Fort Rucker DA Security Guard Branch chief.
Brandon said he has friends that work for Enterprise Head Start, and when they told him about some of the children's situations, it prompted him to take action.
"This project is just something that we thought would be good to do for the children," he said. "We want to be able to give back to the community, and when we heard some of the stories about how unfortunate some of these children are, it just made us want to do something about it."
The project started about three years ago around Christmas when Brandon got together with other post security guards for a social get together. It was decided that each person coming to the event should bring a small gift for either a boy or a girl.
"We took those gifts down to the Enterprise Head Start Center," he said. "We gave the gifts to the teachers at the center and told them to hand them out to any children that they thought might need them."
During their visit, they were approached by one of the teachers who asked if they were interested in volunteering to read to the children during their off time.
"Of course we said yes, and it's something we've done each year since," said Brandon.
Sgt. Elaina Provost, Fort Rucker security guard, was one of the volunteers to read to the children and said it gives her a lot of joy to see the children's faces when she reads to them.
"The [children] are really curious and they get really excited when we come out there," she said. "I think it's good for us to come out there and see them because it shows them that they can do something better for themselves.
"A lot of them tell us that they want to be police officers or firemen, and things like that," she continued. "It's nice to see them get excited about us caring enough about them to come out and spend time with them."
Provost said it didn't take much to influence her to give back to the community, and she wanted to set a good example for the children.
"My children have been fortunate and I was fortunate growing up, and we see a lot of children that don't have things we'd like them to have," she said. "It's about being able to be a good role model or being able to talk to them to make the biggest difference."
The books that the volunteers read are chosen by the children from their in-house library, and Brandon said no matter the selection, it's always enjoyable for them to read.
"Last year we went through a lot of Dr. Suess books," he said. "Those same books that I read growing up, I now had the chance to read to these kids, and it just made me feel good."
Although the main goal of the project is to give back to those in the community that are less fortunate, another aspect of the project is to show that law enforcement, including security guards and police officers, are there to help.
"A lot of children are scared of police officers and security guards," said Provost. "We want to show them that we're the good guys and that we're there to help, and that's a big deal to me."
"A child's first reaction when they see the badge is to be scared, and I think it's very important to [change the perception]," he said.