By Mr. Brian Lepley (Presidio)May 10, 2017
PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, California -- The golden rule rules at Ord Military Community Chapel.
It is plentiful with motivated volunteers that do unto a diverse congregation as anyone would want done unto them, according to Chaplain (Maj.) Rodney Gilliam.
"Our tremendous volunteers, Catholic and Protestant, work hand in hand to make our events successful," he said. "Each one of them has a story, each one of them has a reason that they serve.
"They are a source of inspiration and motivation for me. I enjoy serving alongside of each of them."
From high-profile public events like "Light The Night" in October and the Easter Sunrise Service celebrated beach front of Monterey Bay, to the numerous study groups, music performances, ushers and Sunday School, the chapel's more than two dozen volunteers are their own community.
Chuck Eskridge II followed his father, retired 1st Sgt. Charles Eskridge, into chapel volunteer service. The elder Eskridge was the Protestant Men of the Chapel president until his death in 2012.
"When I volunteer, I don't think about it. I just do it, because I like helping people," Eskridge said. "Treat people the way you want to be treated, with respect. I am a Christian and the point is to help the needy."
While his father served in the Army from 1953 to 1983 and retired at Fort Ord, that is the extent of the younger Eskridge's military connection. Gilliam marvels at the civilians who have attended the OMC Chapel for the decades since the home of the 7th Infantry Division closed in 1994.
"It is really a phenomenon that I can't totally put my finger on. Those who have absolutely no ties to the military are heavily involved in the life of the chapel," he said. "Unique to this military chapel is that it is on an open, non-gated area where civilians, if they choose, can freely worship with us."
They come from the communities of Seaside and Marina, from California State University Monterey Bay, which was founded on the main Fort Ord garrison area in 1994.
Some volunteers, like Eskridge, had an Army connection that has been gone for years.
"For many of them, their military family member has been deceased, in some cases for decades, yet the family member continues to come because this is their chapel," Gilliam said. "I suppose it is where a lot of their memories were growing up and this is like home to them."
One of those volunteers is Joy Junsay, whose health problems the last two years included a stroke and breast cancer.
"She truly lives up to her name, Joy," said Gilliam, who believes her faith and volunteering provides Junsay strength.
The former recorder for the Seaside City Council, Junsay's record keeping on the chapel's events is of great value.
"Because of her record keeping and organizational skills, we are able to take the lessons learned of successful events in years past and build on it when we do new ones," Gilliam said.
Despite serious health challenges, the retired Fort Ord NCO's widow's enthusiasm for chapel volunteer work hasn't dimmed.
"Through all of this she has never uttered one single word of complaint," Gilliam said. "She only continues to love and serve people, literally, in whatever physical way she can."
A component of any worship service is music, an area Cheryl Hardy excels at as a volunteer. She runs the sound system for Protestant services and plays the drums, as well as volunteers at events. Brenda Thomas sings during the offertory at Protestant services. Neither woman has any military connection to Fort Ord.
On the Catholic side, the chaplain reports, there are many more volunteers without an Army tie, like Etna Monsalves.
"She is a vital member, especially with programs involving children," Gilliam said. "For "Light the Night" she and her volunteers put together 600 goodie bags for the children to use."
Walter Washington has been a Catholic volunteer for 25 years. Gilliam also cited Sonia Lin, who's been with the Catholic congregation only a year, but has distinguished herself in volunteer service.
Another new volunteer, Angeline Peterman, created the Bible Journaling Program on Tuesday mornings.
"We paint, letter and color our way through scripture and look for more women who are looking for a creative way to worship," she said.
While her husband is a student at the Naval Postgraduate School, Peterman also volunteers with the housing mayor's program.
"We military wives move around a lot and the chapel was so helpful to me here, very supportive to this ministry, and I just wanted to help out," she said. "I felt this was a good location to reach other military wives."
Old, new; civilian, military; men, women; Catholic, Protestant -- the OMC Chapel's diverse volunteers continue to provide spiritual service where all are welcome.
(Additional reporting provided by Angel Mendoza and Shaleena Thomasson.)