By Rachael Tolliver--IRAHC PAOJuly 26, 2018
Like most small towns across the U.S., when it comes to preparing for crisis situations, personal emergencies, and unplanned events Fort Knox is no different than any other community.
And if you didn't think of the installation as a small town consider this: the population of Fort Knox is more than 10,000 which is more than the population of Vine Grove, which lists around 4,500. Compare that to Shepherdsville at more than 11,000, Elizabethtown at more than 28,000 and Radcliff at more than 21,000.
For that reason opportunities like the ones the Fort Knox Red Cross, and the volunteers that support it, have established are important to the post, according to May Giulitto the director of American Red Cross at Fort Knox.
"It doesn't matter what the rank is, or what the situation is--we are here to help our community," she said. "And, there shouldn't be a sigma on offering, asking or receiving help."
Some of those opportunities include the Lending Closet; Helping Hands; free produce given away every day after 12:30 p.m., at the Red Cross on post, and even bread provided by Panera on Thursday and Friday mornings.
"About seven or so years ago a volunteer of ours went over and asked Panera if we could have a day where they would give us the bread they weren't going to use. They gave us two days," she explained. "And the commissary donates produced every day---available here after 12:30 p.m."
"There are no qualifications to receive either, but we do ask that you sign in so we can justify continuation of services here."
However, the items have to get from Panera and the commissary to the Red Cross so people can come by and pick them up. That's where volunteers come in.
"We need volunteers in the evening to go pick these items up at Panera, and to pick up the items at the commissary," she explained. "It doesn't take much time to drive over and pick them up, bring them back and you're done. But without volunteers who will transport these generously donated items the people who rely on them won't get them."
Anyone who lives or works on Fort Knox and has a CAC card can come by and get bread and produce, and the use the Helping Hands service.
Soldiers coming to Fort Knox from AIT, or assignments where they didn't need much, or if a family's household goods are delayed, can go to Helping Hands or the Lending Closet--a program where they can borrow coffee pots, microwaves, dishes and silverware.
Evgenia Mellott and her family have just been assigned to Fort Knox but Helping Hands is one of the first places she visited.
"We've been here almost two weeks--we came from Pennsylvania," she explained. "I found out about this place from Facebook. Since we just (arrived at Fort Knox), the food and clothing will be very helpful so we can get set up. This is the first post we've been to that has a service like this…..it's such a great thing."
On the last Thursday of each month there is an "end of the month yard sale" in building 1750A--a warehouse near Helping Hands--where any Soldier E6 and below, or their family, can pick out any of the donated items for free. Then, on that Friday and Saturday the yard sale is open to the public at whatever they can afford--there are no set prices.
And from where do all the donated items come?
"When families PCS and have to go overseas, or to a post that is far away they don't always want to pack up everything they own," explained Joe Krota, a volunteer with the Red Cross who helps out at the end of the month yard sales. "They bring their household goods here and donate them. We get a lot of nice stuff in here--everything from clothes, to furniture, kitchen appliances, TVs. You name and we get it."
But if there is one thing the Red Cross programs are short of, it would be volunteers.
Staff Sgt. Robert Puente, a noncommissioned officer in charge in the radiology laboratory at Ireland Army Health Clinic, volunteers and regularly guides his Soldiers through the Red Cross programs.
"I volunteer because it's important to give back to the community, no matter how big or small," he explained. "I saw an ad that was reaching out for volunteers for multiple programs they offer. I was familiar with a few of them, I began to pull the thread and multiple programs and opportunities began to unveil themselves."
He said personnel from IRAHC and Fort Knox Medical Department Activity can benefit from getting into the "good habit of volunteering" an hour or two once a week at an organization of their choice.
The Soldiers he guides to the Red Cross aren't just those who have an emergency or ran into unplanned financial hardship. He said he points everyone to the Red Cross because it's a resource they should know about that can help them in many ways, like saving money and reducing stress.
A dollar not spent is a dollar saved, he said, and since produce and bread is a routine item on most grocery lists, it all adds up. People can benefit from money saved by utilizing the programs which in turn can reduce financial stress.
Puente added that utilizing Helping Hands or the Loan Closet can save money, especially if Soldiers are living in the barracks.
"Stress is real-- everyone has it--and financial stress can cause serious damage (that) creates mental obstacles that can negatively impact a Soldier's performance," he noted. "Financial readiness may not solve stress completely but it can definitely improve it."
For more information about these or other Red Cross program on Fort Knox, or volunteer opportunities, call 502-624-2163