FORT DRUM, N.Y. (April 20, 2022) -- The Fort Drum community celebrated the good work and dedication of its volunteers during the Volunteer of the Year Awards Ceremony on April 19 at the Commons.
“Our volunteers are trailblazers found throughout the community – both on post and off post – and include a wide variety of people,” said Dani Reed, Fort Drum Army Volunteer Corps program manager. “Soldiers, civilians, retirees, spouses and youths freely give their time and effort to provide services for many organizations and programs. All of their skills and accomplishments have enhanced Soldier readiness and family support, which is very important and truly makes the Fort Drum community a better place to live and work.”
Fort Drum’s volunteer community recorded 37,327 hours of service into the Volunteer Management Information System last fiscal year. This equates to a monetary value of nearly $1.1 million, with the notional value of each volunteer hour estimated at $28.54.
Nominations for Volunteer of the Year were received from units and organizations throughout Fort Drum and were separated into four categories for evaluation: Soldier and Family Readiness Groups, Large Community Groups, Small Community Groups, and Youth Groups.
Col. James Zacchino Jr., Fort Drum garrison commander, applauded the selfless service of not only the award nominees but the 3,356 registered volunteers who are active in the community. He said that their contributions are an inspiration for all to emulate.
“Our volunteers proudly serve the military community and organizations in the tri-county area such as churches, schools and fire stations,” he said. “To our volunteers, thank you for selflessly dedicating your precious time and efforts for a cause greater than you and asking nothing in return. You are truly special, and you symbolize an incredibly awesome community.”
Soldier and Family Readiness Group nominees:
Casey Loeschen, Staff Sgt. Dylan Clarke, Bria Fournier, Karie White, Jessica Fairchild, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Eric Martinez, Suzii Schreurs, Kaylee Tackett, Stacy Secrest, Mariah Stahl and Alexis Tyler.
Casey Loeschen was named Soldier and Family Readiness Group Volunteer of the Year. Loeschen amassed 789 volunteer hours as the Soldier and Family Readiness Group leader for the 10th Mountain Division Band. In addition to streamlining administrative work, she organized team meetings, maintained social media pages, published weekly newsletters to families and attended every Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion steering committee meeting.
As SFRG leader, Loeschen helped to organize events such as scavenger hunts on the Black River Trail, financial education classes, Coffee with Spouses, Sip-and-Paint, Trunk-or-Treat and chili cook-offs.
Exuding pride in the SFRG program, she routinely sought out new volunteers and coordinated their training. She worked with the band’s command team to deploy the call roster several times annually to validate family readiness.
Loeschen also supported many fundraisers for Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, which included cooking and serving more than 50 meals at four Motorpool Mondays. She worked closely with the senior SFRG adviser within HHBN and championed the 10th Mountain Division (LI) at every opportunity.
Large Community Group nominees:
Jennifer Mapes and Kelly Ginder.
Jennifer Mapes was named Large Community Group Volunteer of the Year. Her work with the Fort Drum Medical Activity Red Cross Volunteer Program includes managing the onboarding of new volunteers and coordinating internship opportunities. Mapes also conducts an orientation to familiarize new volunteers with the regulations, policies and procedures of the program.
She took the initiative to introduce a new Red Cross Comfort Cart program to the Fort Drum MEDDAC facility, where passionate volunteers promote an “at-home experience” to patrons navigating Guthrie Ambulatory Health Care Clinic.
During the pandemic, Mapes supported after-hours COVID vaccine clinics, and she worked with clinic partners to coordinate externships for students when the Red Cross DENTAC program ceased training due to COVID-19.
Small Community Group nominees:
Sierra Crites, Nicole Brooks, Emily Fitzgerald and Natalie Taylor-Amaro.
Emily Fitzgerald was named Small Community Group Volunteer of the Year. She worked with the leadership team in 2020 to establish the local Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Professional Network (MSPN). Since its inception, the Fort Drum chapter has grown a network of more than 2,100 members.
Fitzgerald demonstrated stellar organizational skills, which have been used as a model for other MSPN chapters. Her passion for military spouse employment and the success of this chapter resulted in the Hiring our Heroes headquarters choosing Fort Drum as the hub for the Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zones program. Bringing this to the North Country will help to address and mitigate underemployment and unemployment challenges facing military spouses.
Fitzgerald selflessly serves the Fort Drum community by working with spouses to help them identify and achieve their professional goals.
Youth Group nominees:
Skyla Dixon was named Youth Group Volunteer of the Year. For the past four years, Skyla has volunteered every third Saturday of the month at the Feed the Vet Center food pantry. While helping to feed hundreds of local families, she has proven to be a capable and reliable youth volunteer for the Thousand Island Warrant Officer Association.
As a Cadette Girl Scout, Skyla has spent months organizing and collecting books for the “Read One, Leave One” campaign.
Her other volunteer work includes packing gifts for the Walker Cancer Center, donating to the Women’s and Children Shelter of Watertown, and simply being a kind and generous influence as a student at Indian River Middle School.
Installation Volunteer of the Year:
Maj. Gen. Milford H. Beagle Jr., 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander, joined his wife Pam, and Command Sgt. Maj. Mario Terenas, 10th Mountain Division (LI) senior enlisted adviser, in presenting the Volunteer of the Year award to Casey Loeschen.
“It was a little nerve-wracking, but I am very grateful for this award,” Loeschen said. “I love helping the band and supporting HHBN.”
Loeschen had never volunteered with an SFRG before, but she took on the responsibility when the previous leader’s family was leaving Fort Drum in 2020.
“I’ve loved it,” she said. “A lot of times I would get nervous because I wanted to get a lot done perfectly, but everybody would say they really enjoyed everything. It makes me happy knowing I could help support Soldiers and families.”
Lt. Col. Peter Young, HHBN commander, said he was proud to nominate Loeschen for the award.
“Casey has been an integral part of the 10th Mountain Division Band and the HHBN team,” he said. “She communicated consistently with the Soldiers and families through multiple platforms, displayed a strong vision for the SFRG program, and demonstrated selfless service in all of her activities.”
To learn more about the Fort Drum Army Volunteer Corps, visit www.facebook.com/FortDrumArmyVolunteerCorps. A photo gallery from the awards ceremony is available at www.flickr.com/photos/drum10thmountain/albums/72177720298243569.