FORT STEWART, Ga. — Leaders and members of Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield’s Army Community Service hosted their first ever volunteer of the year recognition award ceremony through a simulcast that was live streamed for the Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield communities June 4 at various locations near the installations.
“This is a good way to show the volunteers appreciation because we wouldn’t be able to accomplish all that we do without our volunteers,” said Renee McClinton, the volunteer program manager.
Recognizing more than 18,000 hours of community service from April 2019 through March 2020, more than 100 Soldiers across Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield participated in giving their time and effort to Coastal Georgia, resulting in their nomination for the active-duty Soldier, spouse, youth, civilian and Family of the year award.
“The opportunities to volunteer are limitless and what you get out of volunteering is priceless,” said Jaime Meyers, the Fort Stewart Army volunteer coordinator.
Several cameras were used to simultaneously record the events as recipients were presented with their awards at their residences.
The pandemic has been challenging for many people all over the world, but Fort Stewart’s Army Community Service met this challenge head on and brought some positivity to the awardees and the larger Army community paying close attention to the live-streamed event.
“We maintained social distancing using cell phones and the online streaming service,” said Kevin Larson, chief of the Public Affairs Office on Fort Stewart. “We wanted to ensure we recognized our volunteers, even in this time of social distancing. We couldn’t bring them all together in one place, so we found a solution where we could go to them using technology.”
Nominated by brigade commanders and vetted through an award panel, the active-duty Soldier Volunteer of the Year was Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Weaver, assigned to the 188th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East.
Weaver has contributed to nonprofits such as Team Red White and Blue since 2017, Team Rubicon, the Tragedy Assistance Programs for Survivors and the Travis Manion Foundation.
The civilian Volunteer of the Year was Larry Wooten. Wooten is an active member of the Marne Chapel, serves on the parish council and helped organize two Savannah riverboat cruises, as well as a weekend retreat to Jekyll Island for parishioners to bond with their loved ones.
The spouse Volunteer of the Year was Nichole Stone. Stone is actively engaged in her Soldier’s unit and Family readiness group, the Marne Community and Spouses Club, Diamond Elementary Parent-Teacher Organization and Protestant Women of the Chapel.
The youth Volunteer of the Year was Preston Ver Hoef. Ver Hoef has spent more than 60 hours volunteering with Richmond Hill Middle School, offering support for special needs students and has also helped with several of his school’s blood drives.
The Family Volunteer of the Year was the Self Family. Clarrisa Self is the mother to Pfc. Jared Self, a reconnaissance platoon medic for 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team. The Selfs have prepared and delivered Halloween candy for Families in need and have participated in the Honor Flight Program, which allows local veterans to see their respective service memorial in Washington.
“Total Army savings from volunteers averages about $55 million a year,” said Beau Bradley, the supervisory mobilization and deployment specialist program manager at Fort Stewart. “The savings help us focus our efforts on additional ways to support the warfighter and make it possible to have the Army we have today.”
“Thank you for showing your courage and adaptability during these recent times,” Maj. Gen. Tony Aguto, the 3rd Infantry Division’s commander said to the volunteers. “We have seen our community come together in ways that exemplify exactly what the U.S. Army is all about and stands for.”