FORT POLK, La. — Serving the community through volunteering your time and effort, no matter the focus, was celebrated at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk Commanding General’s Volunteer of the Year ceremony held April 8 at Fort Polk’s Warrior Center.
The event had a Polynesian flair with leis, Hawaiian shirts, Bermuda shorts, colorful tropical decor and live performances from Beauties of the Pacific — a group performing traditional island dances — setting the tone for the night.
Brig. Gen. David S. Doyle made opening remarks at the celebration. He told those in attendance that he was amazed by the scope and scale of the impact made by volunteers on the Fort Polk community in the last year.
Doyle said there were 186 individuals who chose to get involved by registering with the Volunteer Management Information System — that was during a COVID environment.
“Those people not only volunteered, but entered their data in the system which showed that they worked 9,000 hours. The total dollar amount that we would have accrued if we had to pay for those hours added up to more than $350,000. We are very fortunate to benefit from those volunteer hours because it makes a difference for our community and installation,” he said.
Doyle said the volunteers represented at the ceremony performed a variety of duties throughout the year including helping out at special events and with organizations such as Directorate of Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation, Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers, Army Community Service, Soldier and Family Readiness groups, Religious Support, Child and Youth Services, American Red Cross, Spouses’ Community Club, Girls and Boys Clubs and more.
“I just want to say how proud I am to be part of an installation where this is the ideal.
“But what I really want to talk about are the individuals that volunteered. It’s not just about the dollars or the hours, it’s about the inspiration they provide the rest of us,” he said.
Doyle said those volunteers choose to become involved.
“You are not only giving of your time and energy, but you are setting an example. Because you choose to apply yourself in such an incredible way, we may benefit by your example in influencing others to follow in your footsteps,” he said.
Doyle said that may be the most encouraging and inspirational outcome of all.
Lindsey Weaver volunteers with D Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division Soldier and Family Readiness Group.
Weaver said she wanted to help out with raising money for fun things for Families to do like bounce houses for the kids at FRG events and care packages for Soldiers.
“I want our Soldiers to feel appreciated. Giving them a care package shows them there are people who care,” she said.
Weaver said she had volunteer role models who were senior spouses.
“They were so helpful and helped me make sense of military life and to pass that help on,” she said.
Leslie Cormack, Army Community Service information and referral specialist, said their volunteers didn’t let the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions get in the way.
“Our volunteers were still willing to put themselves out there to support the morale and welfare of Fort Polk,” she said.
Sandra Keil, ACS finance specialist, said it’s valuable to recognize what volunteers do.
“Many people volunteer selflessly and this is the perfect opportunity to honor them and their many efforts,” she said.
Penny Dekerlegand, 13, was named the Installation Youth Volunteer of the Year.
Dekerlegand volunteers at the Religious Support Office and said she began volunteering because there were things that needed to be done on the installation.
“It seemed like the right thing to do, especially when volunteering can make other people happy when they need a break,” she said.
As far as being the Installation Youth volunteer of the Year, Dekerlegand said it’s nice. “I’m just glad people notice that I’m doing a good job volunteering,” she said.
Installation Volunteer of the Year went to Marissa Schuhlein.
Schuhlein said it feels good to be recognized.
“I wasn’t expecting it, so I’m in shock, but appreciative. I’m also proud because I put in a lot of hard work,” she said.
Doyle thanked the volunteers for their contributions, as well as the positive influence they have on Soldiers, Family members and kids with their actions.
“They will look at you as you volunteer and they will want to be just like you. When that happens, we are going to see great things,” he said.