FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — More than 300 volunteers turned up outside the Army Community Service building bright and early on a windy, but sunny Saturday morning this past weekend to assist in installation beautification projects across Fort Leonard Wood.
The event, organized jointly by Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation and the Directorate of Public Works’ Environmental Division, was a chance to participate in two important celebrations at once, said Col. Jeff Paine, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leonard Wood commander.
“First, we’re celebrating and recognizing Earth Day — and Earth Week, this week — which is a time when we recognize how the environment plays a part in our lives every day, and we do things to conserve it — not just for us, not for our mission, not for what we’re doing right now — but for our kids, for our grand kids,” said Paine in his opening remarks. “The other thing is, this is National Volunteer Week as well. This is our community, so if we want to do something, we need to come together, and we need to do it.”
After signing in and collecting supplies, the volunteers spent a few hours at locations around the cantonment area. 2nd Lt. Paloma Alfaro, an Engineer Basic Officer Leader Course student with Company B, 554th Engineer Battalion, was raking leaves outside the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence building alongside some of her classmates. The San Bernadino, California, native said she’s been here two months and finds the area very beautiful.
“I just thought it was a good opportunity to contribute to this wonderful community here at Fort Leonard Wood,” she said.
At the sprawling Colyer Park, 87 trainees from the 58th Transportation Battalion bagged up leaves and other natural debris. Pvt. Gina Maratea, who is assigned to Company C while she completes Advanced Individual Training to become an Army Motor Transport Operator, said she thinks “it’s important to be active in your community.”
“At Fort Leonard Wood, we strive to be the best and push out great Soldiers, so I think it’s great so many people came out,” she said.
After completing the tasks at their assigned areas, the volunteers returned to ACS for lunch and a thank you from some of the garrison’s senior leaders.
Walter Mattil, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leonard Wood deputy commander, said people here have been looking for ways they could get together and help. He spoke with leaders from FMWR, ACS and DPW, and “an enormous scope of work” was designed with just a few weeks of planning.
“There just seemed to be a lot of interest from people,” he said. “It was just kind of a perfect storm because they said, ‘My gosh, we were just thinking that we need to put community back in ACS.’ They said they thought there was an appetite here for a big event.”
Shawn Steen, who helped organize the work assignments at ACS, said the turnout was impressive.
“I just appreciate the whole support of the community,” he said. “We had a short turnaround to get it together, so this is just a great turnout.”