CAMP ZAMA, Japan -- Whether it’s teaching English, helping newcomers or baking hundreds of cookies to share, Terry Owens enjoys any opportunity to volunteer in the local community.
Owens, a former Soldier and spouse of a U.S. Army Japan civilian, typically lends a hand to several efforts by the Army Community Service here.
She regularly assists with the newcomer orientations, providing a friendly face and answering questions from people who may be overwhelmed after moving overseas.
“Camp Zama is such a small community and I think that we all kind of have to stand up and do our part,” she said. “I feel like the true joy is [found] in giving.”
As part of Volunteer Appreciation Week, observed this year April 17 through 23, the Army is currently highlighting those who selflessly take the time to make a difference in the lives of others.
The Army often relies on volunteers to keep services and programs running smoothly. In fiscal 2020, for instance, volunteers contributed more than 109,000 hours for the Army, which were valued at about $3 million in cost savings, according to Army installation officials.
The Camp Zama ACS normally has eight volunteers, including Owens, who assist with special projects, programming and events on an ongoing basis, said Jennifer Partridge, its director.
“Volunteers are needed to support an array of community activities, particularly in an overseas environment,” Partridge said. “Community-based organizations and activities that support the quality of life of our Soldiers, civilians and family members cannot function without the support of volunteers.”
Partridge said that Owens brings a “welcoming personality” when she meets newly assigned personnel at the newcomer orientations.
“She has a vast knowledge of the community activities and has immersed [herself] in the Japanese culture and can provide insight on activities off post,” Partridge said. “As a former military member herself, she can also relate to the experiences of the active-duty personnel who are stationed in an overseas environment.”
Partridge added that volunteerism is a win-win for both the volunteer and organization, since it can create a social connection and provide valuable experiences for those involved.
Being able to meet new people while giving back to the community motivates Owens to continue volunteering, she said.
In March, she helped organize and provide remarks for a U.S. Army Japan luncheon to commemorate Women’s History Month. She also made and handed out popcorn at the USARJ headquarters building for National Employee Appreciation Day.
Earlier this year, she began volunteering to teach English classes to Zama city government officials.
During Thanksgiving, she even helped prepare a meal for single Soldiers. And for last year’s National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, she baked 200 to 300 cookies that were then distributed to offices here for Operation Spread Good Cheer, which ACS organizes during holidays.
“I never made so many cookies in my life,” Owens said, laughing. “It was nonstop [baking] for about a half a day.”
Owens believes in treating people the way she would wish to be treated. That "Golden Rule" philosophy can be replicated when people volunteer or do something that benefits the community.
“I feel like it creates a positive ripple effect, because you’re ultimately doing something that you enjoy, and that happiness is shared,” she said of volunteering. “I think people kind of pick up on that [and] it creates a more positive environment all the way around.”
An act of kindness doesn’t necessarily have to be a large, planned event. For instance, while walking near a local train station one day, Owens noticed some U.S. Army personnel new to Japan who were lost. So she decided to show them how to purchase a train ticket.
“It’s just little things like that, that I think kind of keep this community going,” she said. “If you can be that positive influence in somebody’s life, then hopefully they will pay it forward.”