Fort Carson, Colo.--Just before the Saturday morning sunrise, Joey Bautista, Fort Carson's volunteer manager, and a retired Army veteran, shines a spotlight in the dark at Iron Horse Park, the field where later in the day hundreds of volunteers will gather to receive their community improvement assignment for the day.
Make a Difference Day, always held on the fourth Saturday in October, is a national event encouraging people throughout the country to perform volunteer work, acts of charity and good will.
"We get here early and we stay late," Bautista said.
Over 300 volunteers from several local volunteer organizations, as well as volunteers without affiliation, participated in a number of on-post community improvement projects in observance of national Make a Difference Day, Oct. 27, 2018, Fort Carson, Colorado.
The projects included raking leaves in Iron Horse Park, painting local fences and walls in the community and cleaning storm water drains.
"It's a labor of love," said Bautista, talking about the volunteers consisting of Soldiers, retirees, and veterans with their families and friends who dedicated their Saturday morning to serve the local Fort Carson community.
"I call it the 'miracle that makes a difference,'" said Bautista, pointing at his heart, the place where the miracle lives.
There's something in their hearts that no matter how busy they are, when he calls for the volunteers to come help, they always come, said Bautista with a beaming smile.
Heather Rousse, a New Orleans native who now lives on Fort Carson, brought her daughters to participate in the event with the local Girl Scouts.
Little Kami works alongside her sister, Adilynn, raking leaves with rakes two or three times their size.
"I did it when I was younger," Rousse said, pointing to her daughters in their Girl Scout vests. "It's a great way for them to make a sisterhood and get out in the community. It shapes them to be better people."
Someday Rousse hopes to return to New Orleans, she said.
Staying true to her Cajun traditions, she wants her daughters to learn the importance of volunteer service and wants them to bring those values back home.
Elvin Delgado, a Soldier from Puerto Rico who now calls Fort Carson home, enjoys joining his friends in contributing to his new community.
"It feels good to make a difference and help the community," Delgado said, working alongside dozens of volunteers to paint a wooden wall with rich, red paint.
Everyone on painting duty is focused on their task, but there is enough time for laughter when young Joaquin Thola, an enthusiastic boy, who has come out to paint alongside his sister and mother, is caught up in a painting frenzy and frantically begins painting the wall as fast as he can.
With no regard for the flecks of paint that splatter all over his face, his hair, arms and clothes, he finishes the wall without breaking a sweat.
"I'm not tired," said Thola, covered nearly head-to-toe in red paint. "Just thirsty."
Many of the volunteers around him laugh out loud, acknowledging that he stole the show.
At the end of the morning's work, the volunteers were treated to a lunch of pizza, hot dogs and chips, along with other snacks.
Col. Brian K. Wortinger, garrison commander for Fort Carson, thanked the many local volunteer organizations that were represented at the event.
We have volunteers that do so many incredible things, said Wortinger, thanking those who gave their Saturday, when they could be at home doing anything else, choosing instead to commit their time to making the mountain post "the best hometown in the Army."