By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterAugust 24, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The contributions of volunteers are vital to many organizations and a recent event helped bridge the gap between organizations and potential volunteers.
Army Community Service hosted the Fort Rucker Volunteer Recruitment Fair at The Landing Aug. 16 where various agencies showcased opportunities for people to not only get real work experience, but make an impact in the community in which they live.
Organizations from both on and off post, ranging from the American Red Cross and Girls Scouts, to the Fort Rucker Thrift Shop and Fort Rucker Community Spouses Club were on hand to answer questions and provide information to those who might be interested in donating their time to help as a means to give back.
"Volunteers are very vital," said Traci Landa, Fort Rucker Thrift Shop assistant manager and volunteer coordinator. "We [at the thrift shop] rely on donations and we only have a few paid workers, so we rely on volunteers to come in and help out.
"We've had volunteers come paint rails for us in front of the shop, we have them do hanging, sorting and cleaning," she said. "It may not look like a lot, but when you come to our store and see how big it is, all of those helping hands help out a lot. If it weren't for all of our volunteers behind the scenes I don't know what we would do."
Landa said that the fair is a great way for organizations to be able to connect with the community and show what they can offer in terms of volunteerism, as well as help people immerse themselves in the community and provide a sense of giving back.
"It lets them know that we're here for them," said the thrift shop assistant manager of the event. "There can be perks to volunteering and it really gets you out there [into the community] to learn about a lot of different programs. I think this gives you a lot of self worth, knowing that you helped out with something.
"Volunteering can also get your foot in the door [to many organizations], and once you get the hands-on experience, then you know what it takes and what you'll get out of volunteering. It helps you to feel like a part of the community and part of a family because this is a small community here."
Jennifer Stein, military spouse, said that sense of community is exactly what she hopes to get out of volunteering when she gives of her time.
"I did a lot of volunteering at our last duty station and I'd like to continue that. It's one of the best ways to make new friends and get connected within the community, so I want to make sure I get off to a good start here," she said.
Stein said the fair was a good way for her to be able to browse different types of volunteering options she might not seek out herself, which is one way that helps broaden her horizons.
"I'm really glad that they host a [volunteer fair] because it gives you the chance to see a lot of different areas you might be able to get involved," she said. "Normally I would just come out and try to volunteer with things I'm familiar with, but this gives you the chance to really broaden your view of where you might want to pledge your services."
Despite where people choose to volunteer their time, Stein said the time put in is more than about hours on a piece of paper.
"I don't think there is any wrong way to volunteer," she said. "I've been doing it for years and I know that they say it's selfless service, but I get so much out of it. The connections I've made and friendships I've made are things I wouldn't trade for anything -- that's something that is hard to get doing anything else."
Landa agreed, adding that volunteerism is seen as more than just helping out in the community -- it's also a testament to people's character.
"There is so much appreciation for volunteers and they get so much recognition. Nowadays, I see that applications [for jobs or schools] ask if people have volunteered anywhere -- it's a big deal," she said. "It's all about being a community, and you want to be a part of it, so this is the best way to get to know people, to get to know your surroundings and it's just really good."