WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. (July 27, 2021) – Last year in May, close to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Maria Pangborn was getting ready to graduate with her Masters of Science in Mental Health Counseling. Before she could graduate, she needed a certain amount of volunteer hours. As the pandemic hit, her opportunities to gain those hours became limited as many places shut down. Since she lived at White Sands Missile Range, she decided to reach out to the Army Community Service (ACS) volunteer program to see if she could use her counseling skills to gain her hours and at the same time help people out during the pandemic.
“I have a great respect for the military and their families, and I felt that ACS would be a great way to give back to the community and really expand my experience,” said Pangborn. “I started doing a lot of psychoeducation for the community. The first Facebook Live that I did was on ‘how to conquer stress and anxiety,’ and I was really surprised that it had over 500 views.”
The ACS volunteer program proved to be a good fit, with Pangborn racking up 1,000 volunteer hours over the course of the year. On May 11, 2021, she was recognized at the 2020 Volunteer Award Ceremony, where she received three awards: Volunteer Appreciation, Presidential Gold, and Volunteer of the Year.
“Maria Pangborn was an amazing asset to the Family Advocacy Program. She provided various psychoeducational courses, assisted with child abuse training, participated in child abuse prevention month and domestic violence prevention month events and awareness efforts,” said Cynthia Valenzuela, Family Advocacy Program Manager. “She was dedicated to ensuring our community had the knowledge to stand united and combat against Family violence. She deserves all the recognition she received, and I hope she gained as much knowledge and experience to match her hard work and dedication.”
Despite having all the hours she needed to graduate, Pangborn continued to volunteer. Soon after doing her Facebook live events, Pangborn began working with several programs at ACS. She continued conducting classes for various topics, assisting in planning events, decorating around the office, sitting at the front desk, and completing many other tasks. Her helping hand was felt throughout the entire organization.
Pangborn completed her hours and finished her graduate program in the summer of 2020. She finally walked across the stage and celebrated her academic achievements during the University of Texas at El Paso spring 2021 commencement.
“Overall, it was a great experience, not just gaining professional working skills but being able to do things like sit at the front desk and greet the customers who came in for the offered services. Everyone who came in the door got a big smile behind my mask, no matter who they were. It was a great feeling to volunteer and give back,” said Pangborn.
To volunteer at WSMR, contact Candice Cunningham, ACS Volunteer Program Manager, at 575-678-2889.