Martin Luther King Jr. Day, observed each year on the third Monday in January, is the only federal holiday designated as a National Day of Service. It encourages all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities. Many Service Members and Family members attached to the 21st Theater Sustainment Command have already heeded that call, setting an example for others to follow year-round.
21st TSC Special Troops Battalion spouse Katie Thimsen, donates her skills and time as secretary for the Kaiserslautern Landstuhl Spouses Association, the KLSA Thrift Shop and Kaiserslautern Middle and Elementary schools. She also joined with dozens of Kaiserslautern Military Community members who volunteered during Operation Allies Welcome, organizing and distributing donations to Afghan travelers at Rhine Ordnance Barracks.
“I like that I am able to help out members of our military community, and that I can meet new people,” said Thimsen. “I’ve gotten to know more people. Not just in my husband’s unit but people in other units, and outside of the Army, in the Air Force.”
As a school and Parent Teacher Association volunteer at Kaiserslautern Elementary and Middle schools, Thimsen appreciates the message her community service sends to daughter Mary and son Lukas.
“Having me there, seeing my presence—I think it’s good for them to see that people benefit from volunteering.”
The benefits go both ways. Thimsen says volunteering has helped her connect with the community. She experienced the strength of those connections when her family had to quarantine for two weeks. Many of the people who offered support were people she met while volunteering.
“People from the spouses club, and people I met volunteering at the thrift store and the schools where I volunteer, the sports that my kids are in—everybody has reached out to us to see how they could help,” said Thimsen. “I thought that was very, you know…” Thimsen did not finish her sentence, but the emotion behind her unspoken words said it all. “I’m glad that I’ve become a part of these places,” she continued. “Over here we need each other.”
Kathleen Anastasi understands that need. As a 21st STB spouse sponsor, she welcomes incoming families, helping them transition to Germany and providing resources to help them make their own connections.
“With this pandemic it was difficult to have any kind of normalcy in our lives,” said Anastasi. “Being locked down for almost a year really affected the mental, physical and emotional state of families. What was rewarding is we adapted to the situation and figured out ways to reach out to families via Facebook, email or WhatsApp. I was able to sponsor three incoming families to the 21st TSC, and with COVID precautions in place, be able to meet them, provide a welcome kit from the 21STB.
“The families appreciated the care, connection, and resources to make their transition a bit more comfortable. I continue to touch base with them to provide any resources or if they have questions.”
Anastasi, who is also the Hospitality and Volunteer Chair for the KLSA, has volunteered more than 15 years in various capacities in multiple locations. She believes volunteers are vital to the community.
“They [volunteers] contribute valuable life-skills, experiences and networking connections while on the assigned installation,” she said. “Volunteers are the heart for any organization.”
She also sees the positive impacts on the volunteer, including gaining skills and making contacts that can turn into lasting friendships.
In addition to regular volunteer service, Thimsen and Anastasi pitch in for community events such as the Halloween trunk or treat, Thanksgiving meals for single soldiers and a recent holiday cookie drive.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., has been quoted as saying, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
Thimsen and Anastasi can answer that question easily.
If you would like to be able to respond equally well, explore the volunteer opportunities within the KMC that include:
• USO Kaiserslautern at https://kaiserslautern.uso.org/
• American Red Cross at https://www.redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer.html
• Army Community Services/ Army Volunteer Corps at https://kaiserslautern.armymwr.com/programs/army-community-service-acs
• Kaiserslautern Landstuhl Spouses' Association (KLSA) at https://www.klsa.org
• Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers at http://www.boss.armymwr.com/