Lesley Ryckman, Business Manager for Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield’s Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation’s Club Stewart, prepares cups of chili with the Club's kitchen staff, June 16 on Fort Stewart. Club Stewart was recently awarded a catering contract to prepare 16,000 meals for troops currently training on Camp Oliver.
Lesley Ryckman, Business Manager for Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield’s Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation’s Club Stewart, prepares cups of chili with the Club's kitchen staff, June 16 on Fort Stewart. Club Stewart was recently awarded a catering contract to prepare 16,000 meals for troops currently training on Camp Oliver. (Photo Credit: Molly Cooke) VIEW ORIGINAL

A Fort Stewart employee with the Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation was recently recognized for excellence in her craft by Installation Management Command continuing a tradition of winning here.

Each year, IMCOM awards the most qualified candidates across U.S. Army garrisons with the prestigious James A. Carrol Jr. Award for excellence in food and beverage management.

Lesley Ryckman, Business Manager for Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield’s FMWR’s Club Stewart was recently named as the 2020 recipient of the award recognizing her efforts not only during the past year but during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I've been working for [F]MWR for 10 years and I love everything about it, the challenge and the daily hustle,” Ryckman said. “It's great to be recognized for the work and dedication.”

During the year, as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, Ryckman not only implemented the required protocols to keep her staff and customers safe; but she also recognized an opportunity to support the Fort Stewart community through creative food service opportunities. These opportunities included the transfer of excess inventory to local DoDEA schools to help feed on-post children during remote learning, and a boxed meal program for pick-up and delivery while all other food operations were closed due to the shut-down.

“When you take a look at all the transformation that Club Stewart has been undergoing, especially under Lesley’s management, not just in her tenure, but especially over the last year during COVID, she really has taken the entire program and flipped it completely upside down,” said FMWR Business Operations Chief, Tyler Gierber. “We took a look at what our new operating environments were going to be coming out of a COVID environment and from buffets, sanitation and safety to social distancing, we decided to revamp our entire activity and really go forward. Some of it was a little bit of a leap of faith.”

According to Gierber, there are three elements an employee must meet in order to be considered for the James A. Carroll Jr. Award. This includes financial performance, innovation and creativity, and future projections.

“It was a pretty easy thing to outline because all I did was take a look at all the great work that Lesley has done, is doing, and will continue to do,” he said. “In the end, Lesley came out on top across the entire Army enterprise, which is why this is one of the most coveted awards for food and beverage entertainment.”

Throughout the past year, Ryckman and her team have introduced a new menu at Club Stewart’s Thunder Run restaurant, converted a bus into a mobile food operation, introduced a new food and beverage operation to the Hunter Army Airfield community, and created countless COVID-friendly events for the Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield community enjoy such as second Sunday brunch and Friday night dinners.

“Our focus at the beginning of the pandemic was that supply chains were strained,” Ryckman said. “We made the decision that everything had to be made fresh and more often, which really kind of revamped the quality that a lot of folks would see which echoed into our dinner services.”

Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield FMWR is no stranger to awards. Last year, the Marne Lanes Bowling Center manager, Roni Steven’s took home the 2019 IMCOM Excellence in Management Award for Bowling Programs.

“Roni has been a part of the organization for years and it’s her first time [to win] in her decades of working with MWR,” Gierber said. “The award came in the latter half of the year because everything was overshadowed by COVID. I was really fortunate to hear that I had two winners in such a short period of time so I really look at them both as a double whammy of winners.”

Throughout the pandemic, Stevens and her team also took the opportunity to revamp their facility with a fresh coat of paint, the addition of e-sports gaming systems and added a new menu with fresh, made-to-order options.

Gierber also emphasized the importance of FMWR programs giving back to the community.

“Whenever you visit one of our [F]MWR facilities, you’re also giving back to your community,” he said. “You know that saying ‘shop local’, you can't get any more local than what's inside this containment area, knowing that there's a great added value for our customers to support folks that are here to support them.”

To learn more about Club Stewart visit stewarthunter.armymwr.com/programs/ClubStewart.