Awards, a bouquet and certificates of appreciation sit on the table at the Army Community Service conference room at U.S. Army Garrison Benelux - Brussels; honorees and their guests talk in the background before the start of the ceremony. During a May 27 ceremony taking place virtually, members of the U.S. Army Garrison Benelux community earned recognition for their volunteer activities for both 2019 and 2020. Retirees, active-duty service members, Families, teams and civilians at Brussels, Chievres Air Base and SHAPE devoted their time to improving the quality of life for their friends and neighbors. Following the volunteer recognition ceremony, a garrison awards ceremony took place at USAG Benelux - Brussels and Chievres Air Base in Belgium and in USAG Benelux - Brunssum, the Netherlands. (U.S. Army photo by Bryan Gatchell, USAG Benelux Public Affairs)
1 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Awards, a bouquet and certificates of appreciation sit on the table at the Army Community Service conference room at U.S. Army Garrison Benelux - Brussels; honorees and their guests talk in the background before the start of the ceremony. During a May 27 ceremony taking place virtually, members of the U.S. Army Garrison Benelux community earned recognition for their volunteer activities for both 2019 and 2020. Retirees, active-duty service members, Families, teams and civilians at Brussels, Chievres Air Base and SHAPE devoted their time to improving the quality of life for their friends and neighbors. Following the volunteer recognition ceremony, a garrison awards ceremony took place at USAG Benelux - Brussels and Chievres Air Base in Belgium and in USAG Benelux - Brunssum, the Netherlands. (U.S. Army photo by Bryan Gatchell, USAG Benelux Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: Bryan Gatchell) VIEW ORIGINAL
Paul Hossenlopp, right, deputy garrison manager at U.S. Army Garrison Benelux - Brussels, talks about the importance of volunteerism prior to cutting a cake. During a May 27 ceremony taking place virtually and in person at the Brussels location and at Chievres Air Base, members of the U.S. Army Garrison Benelux community earned recognition for their volunteer activities for both 2019 and 2020. Retirees, active-duty service members, Families, teams and civilians at Brussels, Chievres Air Base and SHAPE devoted their time to improving the quality of life for their friends and neighbors. Following the volunteer recognition ceremony, a garrison awards ceremony took place at USAG Benelux - Brussels and Chievres Air Base in Belgium and in USAG Benelux - Brunssum, the Netherlands. (U.S. Army photo by Bryan Gatchell, USAG Benelux Public Affairs)
2 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Paul Hossenlopp, right, deputy garrison manager at U.S. Army Garrison Benelux - Brussels, talks about the importance of volunteerism prior to cutting a cake. During a May 27 ceremony taking place virtually and in person at the Brussels location and at Chievres Air Base, members of the U.S. Army Garrison Benelux community earned recognition for their volunteer activities for both 2019 and 2020. Retirees, active-duty service members, Families, teams and civilians at Brussels, Chievres Air Base and SHAPE devoted their time to improving the quality of life for their friends and neighbors. Following the volunteer recognition ceremony, a garrison awards ceremony took place at USAG Benelux - Brussels and Chievres Air Base in Belgium and in USAG Benelux - Brunssum, the Netherlands. (U.S. Army photo by Bryan Gatchell, USAG Benelux Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: Bryan Gatchell) VIEW ORIGINAL
Karen Langhofer, left, the 2020 volunteer of the year at U.S. Army Garrison Benelux, and Retired Lt. Col. Bill Bergman, right, the 2019 volunteer of the year at U.S. Army Garrison Benelux, hold a novelty check symbolizing the combined assessed value of the volunteer work performed at the garrison, $617,219.52. During a May 27 ceremony taking place virtually, members of the U.S. Army Garrison Benelux community earned recognition for their volunteer activities for both 2019 and 2020. Retirees, active-duty service members, Families, teams and civilians at Brussels, Chievres Air Base and SHAPE devoted their time to improving the quality of life for their friends and neighbors. Following the volunteer recognition ceremony, a garrison awards ceremony took place at USAG Benelux - Brussels and Chievres Air Base in Belgium and in USAG Benelux - Brunssum, the Netherlands. (U.S. Army photo by Bryan Gatchell, USAG Benelux Public Affairs)
3 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Karen Langhofer, left, the 2020 volunteer of the year at U.S. Army Garrison Benelux, and Retired Lt. Col. Bill Bergman, right, the 2019 volunteer of the year at U.S. Army Garrison Benelux, hold a novelty check symbolizing the combined assessed value of the volunteer work performed at the garrison, $617,219.52. During a May 27 ceremony taking place virtually, members of the U.S. Army Garrison Benelux community earned recognition for their volunteer activities for both 2019 and 2020. Retirees, active-duty service members, Families, teams and civilians at Brussels, Chievres Air Base and SHAPE devoted their time to improving the quality of life for their friends and neighbors. Following the volunteer recognition ceremony, a garrison awards ceremony took place at USAG Benelux - Brussels and Chievres Air Base in Belgium and in USAG Benelux - Brunssum, the Netherlands. (U.S. Army photo by Bryan Gatchell, USAG Benelux Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: Bryan Gatchell) VIEW ORIGINAL
Novelty check for real value
4 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Col. James Yastrzemsky, left, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Benelux, and garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Katrina Herzfeld, right, hold a novelty check representing the estimated dollar value of the work volunteers have contributed to the garrison in 2020. During a May 27 ceremony taking place virtually, members of the USAG Benelux community earned recognition for their volunteer activities for both 2019 and 2020. Retirees, active-duty service members, Families, teams and civilians at Brussels, Chievres Air Base and SHAPE devoted their time to improving the quality of life for their friends and neighbors. Following the volunteer recognition ceremony, a garrison awards ceremony took place at USAG Benelux - Brussels and Chievres Air Base in Belgium and in USAG Benelux - Brunssum, the Netherlands. (Photo Credit: Julie Piron, USAG Benelux Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL
2019 Youth volunteer of the year
5 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Col. James Yastrzemsky, left, U.S. Army Garrison Benelux commander, elbow-bumps the 2019 youth volunteer of the year Erik Hess-Hawkins as USAG Benelux Command Sgt. Maj. Katrina Herzfeld prepares to hand Hess-Hawkins a certificate. During a May 27 ceremony taking place virtually, members of the U.S. Army Garrison Benelux community earned recognition for their volunteer activities for both 2019 and 2020. Retirees, active-duty service members, Families, teams and civilians at Brussels, Chievres Air Base and SHAPE devoted their time to improving the quality of life for their friends and neighbors. Following the volunteer recognition ceremony, a garrison awards ceremony took place at USAG Benelux - Brussels and Chievres Air Base in Belgium and in USAG Benelux - Brunssum, the Netherlands. (Photo Credit: Julie Piron, USAG Benelux Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

BRUSSELS, Belgium – During a May 27 ceremony taking place virtually, members of the U.S. Army Garrison Benelux community earned recognition for their volunteer activities for both 2019 and 2020.

Retirees, active-duty service members, Families, teams and civilians at the Brussels location, Chièvres Air Base and SHAPE devoted their time to improving the quality of life for their friends and neighbors.

Because COVID-19 preventive measures kept a ceremony from happening in 2020, the Army Community Service recognized the efforts this year for volunteers’ work in 2019 and 2020.

In purely monetary terms, volunteer work saved the garrison $617,279, according to Army Community Service due to the 24,691 hours served.

“Volunteerism to me in its pure, simplest form is about selfless service – selfless service on behalf of somebody else,” said Col. James Yastrzemsky, USAG Benelux commander, during the ceremony, “making a small difference in your world has a butterfly effect in the community at large.”

Yastrzemsky went on to detail the difficulties the community and volunteers faced and the challenges they met in order to unburden community members during COVID restrictions, including helping out at community mailrooms and grocery shopping and making home-cooked meals for newcomers from the U.S. who were on restriction of movement.

At the ceremony taking place at the USAG Benelux – Brussels, Coren Yastrzemsky, the garrison commander’s wife, presented gift bags to the award recipients in addition to the awards presented by Paul Hossenlopp, deputy garrison manager at Brussels.

The volunteer of the year and the retiree of the year for 2019 was Retired Lt. Col. Bill Bergman, the USAG Benelux Retiree Council president. He contributed 1,400 hours to the Benelux community. He coordinated the issuance of SHAPE ID cards to U.S. retirees to facilitate their medical appointments at the SHAPE Healthcare Facility and other services. He expanded and improved Retiree Appreciation Day. Bergman also helped revise The Survivor Guide, a 47-page document providing information and guidance to Family members who have lost a military loved one.

Bergman also coordinates with communes and the garrison in the execution of military formalities for veterans’ burials. He helped to organize events at three regional American cemeteries for Memorial Day, he coordinated with the French embassy to accord three American veterans the Legion d’Honneur, he helps identify unmarked WWII veterans’ graves and works to gain them proper markers and dedications, and much more.

“It’s humbling, because in all the achievements that they cited (during the ceremony) we had a whole team that does things,” said Bergman. “At times I planted the idea, at times I led the charge. At times I was in charge, but everybody else did the work.

“Besides the good feeling that you get from volunteering, you learn a lot from it,” finished Bergman.

The civilian volunteer of the year for 2019 was Stacey Gingrich, the president of the Brussels American School Parent Teacher Student Organization, was also honored for her service to the community in 2019, having also served at the Brussels American School Booster Club, the NATO Charity Bazaar Board and the Brussels Consignment Shop.

Her Family also received recognition as the 2019 volunteer Family. Jason, husband to Stacey, supported student athletes at Brussels American Schools, JJ served as the treasurer for the BAS Student Council Association and volunteered at their Family church, and John served as student-to-student volunteer and also volunteered at the Brussels Consignment Shop and the on-post library. Both John and JJ volunteered during the library’s summer reading program to help guide children on complex Lego projects.

“Volunteering gives your heart back to the community that you’ve been welcomed into,” said Stacey Gingrich. “And really, when you volunteer, it makes you step outside of your own self.”

The Volunteer Team of the Year for 2019 was American Legion Post BE02. They provided multiple youth programs, including a scholarship contest. They also supported the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program by rewarding military and scholastic excellence. They hosted Black History and Hispanic Heritage month events, sponsored the annual SHAPE daddy-daughter dance, and set up a haunted house and an orphanage Christmas party.

The American Legion Post members also laid flowers and wreaths on the graves of American service members in Belgium to ensure that their memory and sacrifices were not forgotten.

Erik Hess-Hawkins was the youth volunteer of the year for 2019. Hess-Hawkings was the acting commander of the Sons of the American Legion, during which time he led the group’s fundraising efforts. He assisted at SHAPE Fest, Dog’s Day Out, the Independence Day celebration and Christmas tree sales.

The Volunteer of the Year and Civilian of the Year for 2020 was Karen Langhofer, currently an advisor for the Brussels Consignment Shop. In 2020 she was the assistant manager of the shop, and her business savvy at the shop helped keep the shop afloat during the difficulties caused by COVID-19, according to the nomination letter submitted on her behalf.

She also volunteers at the Brussels American School as a teacher’s assistant.

“It makes me feel happy that I was acknowledged,” said Langhofer. “But it’s for the community, which is the most important thing.”

Langhofer went on to say that volunteer opportunities are out there for anyone in the Brussels / Sterrebeek community, and that those opportunities can provide an avenue get to know one another better and to gain further comfort with living in Europe.

The retiree of the year for 2020 was Retired Col. Raymond Healy. He was part of the planning and execution of several events. He helped revise and update the The Survivor Guide.

The Family of the year for 2020 was the Vedra family, including Robert, husband; Amy, wife; and Grace, Lucy and Sarah, children. Robert serves at his parish as a lector, usher, and council treasurer in addition to teaching his church’s youth. Amy coordinates community outreach, including providing meals to guests at the Chièvres Army Lodge.

The active-duty service member of the year for 2020 was Sgt. Nicholas Tolman, a member of the SHAPE International Band. Tolman leads the young men’s group at his church, planning activities that focus on leadership development. In 2020 during the COVID-19 prevention measures that required community members to stay at home as much as possible, he helped connect to community members with his music online.

Tolman also helped at the post offices when staffing shortages required volunteers.

The Team of the Year for 2020 was the SHAPE International Band. Members of the band helped process mail during staffing shortages, sanitized equipment at the Community Activity Center fitness center and assisted with COVID-19 testing. They also provided meals to newcomers and Soldiers in the barracks during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

The Youth of the Year for 2020 was Hallie Bridges. Bridges volunteered at the post office at USAG Benelux – Brussels when the post office staffing was limited due to COVID-19 prevention measures (school closures, quarantine and the absence of high-risk personnel). Often she would go to work with little to no notice.

Additionally, she was the freshmen class secretary, the cross-country team manager and a student-to-student ambassador who greets all incoming Families with school-age children. She dedicated her time at the school during the school year and at the garrison during the summer.

“We’ve always felt blessed with her, and now the community gets to see how special she is too,” said Christine Bridges, Hallie’s mother.

Christine Bridges also works at Army Community Service at USAG Benelux – Brussels in close coordination with many of the volunteers, and she spoke about volunteering both from the perspective of a proud parent and as someone who understands its larger communal value.

“Volunteering is a good way to introduce yourself to the world of work as a young person, and there’s a certain amount of flexibility built in,” she said. “The Benelux offers so many great opportunities in a variety of ways to volunteer and to acquire skills.”

If you would like to know more about volunteer opportunities at USAG Benelux, visit an Army Community Service office at SHAPE or USAG Benelux – Brussels in Belgium or at USAG Benelux – Brunssum in the Netherlands. For further contact information, visit https://go.usa.gov/x6Crs.

For further photos from the event, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/usagbenelux/sets/72157719283493178.

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Below is a list of all the winners and nominees for 2019 and 2020.

2019 Family of the Year:

  • Winner – Stacey, Jason, John and J.J. Gingrich
  • Nominee – Robert, Amy, Grace, Lucy and Sarah Vedra
  • Nominee – Barbara, Michael, Ilana and Aiden Lybarger

2019 Retiree of the Year:

  • Winner – Retired Lt. Col. William Bergman
  • Nominee – Quest Eperjesi
  • Nominee – Sheri Walsh

2019 Civilian of the Year:

  • Winner – Stacey Gingrich
  • Nominee – Stephanie Averill
  • Nominee – Renae Bohach
  • Nominee – Debbie Byrne
  • Nominee – Richard Campbell
  • Nominee – Stephanie Condon
  • Nominee – Tara Graves
  • Nominee – Thomas Jansen
  • Nominee – Kathleen Kasper
  • Nominee – Karen Langhofer
  • Nominee – Lynn Morris
  • Nominee – Ronnie Percy

2019 Youth of the Year:

  • Winner – Erik Hess-Hawkins
  • Nominee – Hallie Bridges
  • Nominee – Abigail Prisk

2019 Team of the Year:

  • Winner – American Legion Post BE02 (Brussels and SHAPE)
  • Nominee – Brussels American School Parent Teacher Student Organization
  • Nominee – Brussels Consignment Shop
  • Nominee – SHAPE American High School
  • Nominee – SHAPE American Middle School

2020 Family of the Year:

  • Winner – Robert, Amy, Grace, Lucy and Sarah Vedra

2020 Retiree of the Year:

  • Winner – Retired Col. Raymond Healy

2020 Civilian of the Year:

  • Winner – Karen Langhofer
  • Nominee – Richard Campbell
  • Nominee – CeLyna Chichester
  • Nominee – Stephanie Condon
  • Nominee – Munsun Cox
  • Nominee – Tara Graves
  • Nominee – Brenda Hebner
  • Nominee – Melissa Kruziki
  • Nominee – Brittney Montañez
  • Nominee – Lynn Morris
  • Nominee – Ronnie Percy
  • Nominee – Trisha Perry
  • Nominee – Elizabeth Reeves
  • Nominee – Richards Simmons

2020 Youth of the Year;

  • Winner – Hallie Bridges

2020 Team of the Year:

  • Winner – SHAPE International Band
  • Nominee – American Legion Post BE02 (Brussels and SHAPE)
  • Nominee – NATO HQ Joint Top III
  • Nominee – Scouts USA Troop 325
  • Nominee – SHAPE American High School
  • Nominee – SHAPE American Middle School
  • Nominee – US Charity Bazaar Team

2020 Active-Duty Service Member of the Year:

  • Winner – Sgt. Nicholas Tolman
  • Nominee – Jordan Jackson
  • Nominee – Trinidad Sierra