HOHENFELS, Germany -- Hohenfels celebrated its many volunteers at the annual Volunteer Recognition Ceremony, April 23.
A total of 248 volunteers registered in the Volunteer Management Information System donated nearly 28,000 hours of their time to help save the Army approximately $558,960 this year.
"That's what we have recorded," said Col. John G. Norris, Joint Multinational Readiness Center commander. "There are many people out there in our community volunteering everyday that choose not be recognized but contribute thousands of hours annually."
Twenty-nine volunteers who distinguished themselves by logging over 200 hours were presented with coins and tokens of appreciation.
Capitalizing on the fact that Volunteer Recognition Week occurred during the Month of the Military Child, Terri Carr, Army Community Service Volunteer Corps commander, sponsored a youth essay contest on "How Volunteering Helps Strengthen our Community." The two winners shared their essays with the gathered crowd.
Nate David, winner in the 6-8 grade category, talked about the benefits of volunteering, not just to the community but to the volunteer as well. David discussed studies that show that volunteers have stronger social networks and healthier lifestyles, as well as greater self confidence and better leadership skills.
As president of the Student Council, David took part in a charity fund raising event that earned over $600 for breast cancer awareness.
Debbie Strange, wife of Lt. Col. John J. Strange, Jr., said she was really touched by David's statement about emotional health being improved by volunteering.
"I have benefited significantly by virtue of the friendships and sense of connectedness I've gained in my volunteer activities," she said. "Volunteering in the community may not necessarily come without pain, without difficulty or without cost, but it is so very worth it."
Junior Micaela Carr, winner in the 9-12 grade category, related a story about when she was part of a service project as Sacred Heart Academy. Part of her duties included grading papers, reading to students, and tutoring students in math or language arts. A young student whom Carr had helped with her multiplication tables approached her for a hug and said, "I want to be just like you when I get into high school."
"That was the moment that I realized how much my simple jobs meant to these fourth graders. Since then, I found many opportunities to help my community," Carr said.
Carr has volunteered with a cancer patient support group, a neonatal intensive care unit, and she currently tutors other students and volunteers with the Red Cross.
"Service in the community is an amazing opportunity to meet new people and have them share their story with you, to let people you do not know inspire you to make your community better," she said.
"That story was absolutely awe-inspiring," said Strange. "It reminded me of how much volunteers really do touch and inspire others … Maybe that's the magic of volunteering and getting involved. We inspire and motivate each other.
"The people in our community … inspire me," Strange added.
Nominated by various units across the Hohenfels Military Community, nine individuals earned Volunteer of the Year in six categories.
Active Duty Volunteer of the Year Sgt. Brian Steddum with the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment Headquarters and Headquarters Company, said he didn't begin volunteering with Outdoor Recreation for recognition but out of a sincere interest in encouraging his fellow Soldiers and their families to get out of their homes and barracks and have some fun.
"When I follow up with people months later and still see them getting out and getting active, that's a great feeling," he said.
The Leible family, awarded Military Family Volunteer of the Year, are all active volunteers at various functions, including the three children; 11 year old Jake, 9 year old Joshua, and 6year old Jase. Jake said the reward comes from knowing they're making a difference, such as at the Community Bazaar where the three children served as "pretzel boys."
"That was my favorite volunteer experience because we got to see our hard work pay off by collecting all the income that went to ACS," said Jake.
Youth Volunteer of the Year Athena Hills volunteers with many organizations across the garrison including the Hohenfels Community and Spouses Club and the National Junior Honor Society.
She also plays music at her church and participated in the Army Family Action Plan (AFAP) conference. Like most volunteers, she's not in it for the accolades.
"I just enjoy doing stuff that benefits everybody," Hills said.