WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. – What is usually a sizeable celebratory event to recognize the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) volunteers, was an intimate luncheon with limited seating this year. The annual Army Community Service (ACS) Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon took place on July 7, 2020, to thank all the volunteers and provide awards to those who went above and beyond in 2019.
Volunteer week usually takes place in April, but due to the COVID-19 virus outbreak, the luncheon was postponed for about three months. The volunteer theme for this year is The Heart of the Army Community.
“Our volunteers play an important role in our small WSMR Community; they truly are the heart of our community," said Candice Devoe, Army Volunteer Corps Program Manager. “Without their dedication and willingness to volunteer, some of our programs would not exist. I am grateful and extremely thankful to each and every volunteer we have because they make such a huge impact on our base every single day.”
Local to WSMR is the June Bisbey Angel of the Year award; the recipient is chosen for their dedication to the spirit of volunteerism in the community. This year the recipient is Jon Gibson, who was recognized for his lifelong dedication.
The Volunteer of the Year award is selected through a committee of people who typically do not interact with the volunteers. The nomination write-ups are anonymous so that the committee members focus solely on the merit of the volunteer. Out of a competitive 14 nominations, the recipient this year is Jonathan Behr.
The Helping Hands Award is presented to people who have volunteered in three or more organizations, and this year's recipients are Amy Carter, Christopher Johnston, Heather Kinney and Heather Ward.
"This year is the first time in a long time we have done the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, and we have 22 recipients, it goes on a tiered basis," said Devoe. "Anyone who volunteers 500 hours and above is in the gold tier, and this year, we have two that are gold members."
The Presidential Volunteer Service Award recipients at the gold tier level are Ginger Reynolds and Christopher Johnston.
In 2019, WSMR had 105 volunteers and 17 Organization Point of Contacts (OPOCs). The OPOCs are employees who are trained to manage the volunteers working in their organization.
"To become an OPOC, the employee has to do a 30-minute training, and we talk about the responsibilities of becoming an OPOC, how to take care of volunteers, and I give them the guidelines," said Devoe. "My role is just making sure we follow the rules and the guidance that is given down from my headquarters."
Some programs are run nearly solely through volunteers. The volunteer force is strong and vital to continuing specific programs on the installation. For instance, volunteers dedicate a few hours of their time on the weekends to run the Post Theater.
"Volunteers run almost 95 percent of our Baby Strong program," said Devoe. "The program works on a pay it forward basis, people bring in a donation, and they get to take something in return. To keep using the program, they can even bring back what they originally took.”
The typical volunteers at WSMR are military spouses and government worker spouses. Volunteers are helping throughout WSMR at the Child and Youth Services, the school, the library, and in many other organizations. They coach youth sports, teach classes, and help in the museum.