By Chris ZavadiFebruary 6, 2014
FORT LEE, Va. (Feb. 6, 2014) -- A Fort Lee family member was recognized Jan. 25 as a United Service Organization Volunteer of the Year.
April (Geis) Rogers received the award during a volunteer appreciation luncheon at the Baymont Inn and Suites in Richmond. Her husband, Staff Sgt. Timothy Rogers, is a welder and machinist assigned to the Combined Arms Support Command. They have two children -- David 8, and Paige, 6.
"Two of the reasons she was selected for Volunteer of the Year are because of her enthusiasm and the kind and giving spirit that she has for our military," said Kasinda Thomas, Fort Lee's USO director.
"Not only does she come in as a military spouse, but she comes in as a caring person for these Soldiers in the USO Center whenever she's volunteering," Thomas said. "She has a can-do attitude, whatever you need done. She's one of those people … it doesn't matter the task, if she doesn't know how to do it she says, 'I'll try, I'll do the best that I can.'"
Rogers got involved with the USO a little over a year ago.
"To me," she said, "it just means being able to give something back to those who helped me out when I was a new Soldier's wife."
As a stay-at-home mother with two young children, her personal schedule can be demanding, yet offers enough flexibility that she gave more than 700 hours of volunteer time to the USO and other organizations last year. She has served as a Family Readiness Group leader and Girl Scouts assistant leader.
Rogers' commitment to volunteerism and military families, Thomas said, are among the reasons she was recognized by the USO.
"She helps with the Spouses Club as well at Fort Lee. She did a centerpiece for them over the holiday timeframe," Thomas said. "She gave more than 300 hours last year of volunteer time just to the USO, but she also has her hands in these other organizations, which takes a lot of her time. Being a military spouse with two small children on top of that is a great feat."
The USO at Fort Lee relies on about 70 volunteers and "is like inviting Soldiers into your home," Rogers explained.
"Soldiers come in to watch TV or read books or play video games and things like that. We do barbecues and other fun activities every year," she said.
Rogers helps maintain and clean the facility, checks out movies and video games, and helps Soldiers with other things.
Since the volunteer coordinator left due to a family illness in Georgia, Rogers has jumped in to pick up the slack.
"I was helping fill in her job as much as I could," Rogers said. "If somebody didn't show up for a shift at the USO, I would try to show up myself."
Thomas said Rogers has been invaluable in other ways too.
"In January of last year, we had our grand opening at the Military Entrance Processing Station," Thomas said. "This is where young men and women come in and swear in to join the military. They asked us to open a USO center there for the guys and girls because they have to stay there all day long, and there's nothing for them to do."
The satellite USO location offers cable TV, the Internet, a game room and family room where soon-to-be Soldiers can relax between processing tasks.
"One of the things we did to spruce up that room was to paint the walls. This is where April just kind of jumped in and said, 'Do you need help painting? I'll help you paint.' So April and me, with a few other young Soldiers went over and painted the room to get it ready for our grand opening," Thomas said.
"On the weekends, because we are a volunteer-based organization, I can only be there so much of the time. She voluntarily comes in every weekend to make sure that the center is open and ready for the other volunteers to come in," Thomas added.
The USO, most widely known for its shows that entertain U.S. military members around the world, has more than 160 locations worldwide where troops can find a comfortable place to connect with family members via Internet or telephone, play games, catch a movie, grab a snack, or just relax.
Her involvement with morale-boosting programs of the organization, Rogers said, prompted her involvement with the Family Readiness Group, which helps Soldiers and their family members adjust to military deployments and separations, and enhances morale.
"I've been inspired by all the other FRG leaders and other volunteers throughout the course of my husband's career," she said. "I just felt uplifted by it, and I wanted to have that level of commitment that they had toward volunteering … toward doing something bigger than themselves."
(This article was republished with permission from the Fremont Tribune)