By Mr. Bryan Gatchell (IMCOM)March 27, 2014
ANSBACH, Germany (March 27, 2014) - The American Red Cross threw a spotlight on its Franconia Military Community volunteers March 21, 2014, during a dinner party in downtown Ansbach.
To show appreciation for the volunteers that contributed hours and work to the American Red Cross and their respective communities, the American Red Cross held a volunteer recognition ceremony at the Orangerie in Ansbach for volunteers from U.S. Army Garrisons Ansbach, Bamberg and Schweinfurt.
Throughout 2013, 128 adult volunteers and five youth volunteers from the FMC contributed more than 20,000 hours, which saved the U.S. Army an estimated $449,264.88.
"These are all impressive numbers, but together they add up to a community that is safer, healthier and better prepared," said Col. Christopher Benson, the U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach and FMC commander, during his speech.
Benson and Command Sgt. Maj. Mark A. Kiefer, command sergeant major of USAG Ansbach and the FMC, presented certificates to the volunteers. Several Army medical commanders attended the event to thank their volunteers as well.
"Ninety-six percent of the organization is volunteers, and a part of engaging volunteers is recognizing them," said Bridgette Antinozzi, the regional chairperson for the Central Europe Area American Red Cross office. "The volunteers don't do what they do to get recognition, but it's important that they be recognized and we have an opportunity to say thank you for what they do.
"You don't get a paycheck when you're volunteering, and there's going to be something that keeps you coming back," continued Antinozzi. "So I think a lot of volunteers, it makes them feel good - it reenergizes."
Cassandra Wyatt, the station manager for the American Red Cross at USAG Ansbach, said she believes good communities are the product of the energy their members put into them, which is why it is important to recognize volunteerism.
"It's as good as you want to make it," said Wyatt of the community. "It's about one person. If everyone does a little bit, then everybody benefits."
One of the volunteers being recognized during the ceremony, Mieko Wenglikowski, had both the perspective of a volunteer and of an administrator for the American Red Cross. She splits her volunteer hours between clinic time and administering the ARC records as chairperson.
"A lot of people are here to use us as a pad - a stepping stone, if you will - to get them where they want to be," said Wenglikowski. "A lot of positions here are very competitive, and to get that edge over your peers, volunteering is a very good stepping stone.
"In the clinics specifically it happens a lot because those positions are very competitive," continued Wenglikowski. "I know multiple [resident nurses] who have gotten in because they were volunteers."
"They're getting real-world, on-the-job training," said Capt. Lucas Poon, chief of pharmacy at USAG Schweinfurt, of the volunteers who work at his pharmacy. "If I were in the position of hiring, I would definitely pick out those skills. Whether you're a paid worker or a volunteer, the skills are relevant in the position. So the training is going to be the same as if you were working for money."
One of the job training programs that can prepare volunteers for work outside the Army is the dental assistance program.
"A lot of people, they're transitioning out with the military shrinking, they're looking at options to support their families, and dental assistance is one way they can do that," said Wenglikowski. "And I know that our dental assistants have gotten jobs. At least three of them are working at the different dental clinics, so it's a win-win situation."
Besides the ability to build skills and bolster resumes for future paid positions, most of the volunteers find something worthwhile inherent in the efforts.
"I like spending the time in the school," said Sandy Ingram, a volunteer at a second grade classroom at USAG Schweinfurt. "I like to see the kids' faces. When you can help them and when you can actually see the difference it makes in the children when all of a sudden they learn something more and they get that extra help and then they understand something else and you see their smiles and from when they first come in their reading goes up, it makes a big difference."
"I'm not doing this to be recognized, but it's nice," said Szu-ju Chen, a new volunteer. "I wanted to do it just for something to do, but after I started doing it I really started enjoying it."
"It helps the community," said Rosalba Edwards, a CPR/first aid instructor at USAG Schweinfurt. "It's very rewarding. I would enjoy it and I would volunteer where I go to next."
"She's more involved in the community than I am, because I've just got a select group that I deal with," said Will Edwards, husband of Rosalba and Soldier at USAG Schweinfurt. "She'll go around and she knows everybody. And if I need something else, I'll ask her, and she'll tell me who to go to. And everybody knows who she is and sees the impact that she makes in their lives too."
"You get to be a part of the community, you get to know people, you get to learn from others what they know that you did not know, so it is definitely a plus," said Rosalba Edwards.
While some of the volunteers derived a sense of community from their service, the various medical teams recognized the value of what their volunteers do.
"Historically we've got about two to three volunteers at any one time," said Poon. "They've made an incredible difference in our mission. In fact, we really couldn't do the day-to-day operations without our volunteers. I've been privileged to have them help me.
"Due to the downsizing of the Army, a lot of our personnel, a lot of our assets, a lot of our resources just aren't there," continued Poon. "Especially in a health care setting, it's really busy. You just need people there. We're talking about just helping our patients, answering questions. I alone could not do the job. You have to have people there, especially volunteers."
Poon has written referral letters for his volunteers because of their service.
"They do it out of the goodness of their heart, so you know you're getting someone who wants to help out a patient," said Poon. "They're intentions are always good."
"I enjoy being around people, I enjoy teaching and also learning from them," said Rosalba Edwards. "It's very rewarding. I would enjoy it and I would volunteer where I go to next."