Soldiers, students earn volunteer hours at commissary
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Fort Jackson Commissary shoppers cruise the aisles that are stocked by contracted personnel and volunteers June 23. The commissary is experiencing a shortage of personnel since the COVID-19 pandemic and Soldier, civilians, and their Family members have volunteered their time to help fill the gaps until personnel can be hired and begin working. (Photo Credit: Alexandra Shea) VIEW ORIGINAL
Soldiers, students earn volunteer hours at commissary
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Shelves of staple food items are stocked on Fort Jackson commissary shelves June 23. While contracted personnel stock the shelves, Fort Jackson volunteers help keep shelves stocked throughout the day. (Photo Credit: Alexandra Shea) VIEW ORIGINAL

Many Fort Jackson facilities were affected in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hiring personnel to fill non-appropriated fund and contract positions which includes those working as lifeguards, recreational aids, stockers at the commissary and cooks, has been difficult.

Through the help of Soldiers, civilians and their Family members, some of these positions are getting coverage through volunteer work. This is especially true at the Fort Jackson Commissary.

Many may not know that the commissary employs very few Government Service employees and relies heavily on contracted positions such as product stockers and those who operate certain departments like the bakery, while cashiers are Non-appropriated Funded positions and baggers work for tips only. It is a complicated web of positions that come together as one to ensure a complete work force that operates the commissary from entrance to exit.

Post COVID-19 pandemic, it has been difficult to hire people to fill all the positions in lace before the start of the pandemic. This residual effect has been felt nationwide, most noticeably within the shipping industry.

The commissary has been able to maintain it’s delicate balance of differently funded work force through the help of volunteers.

“They have been a great help,” said Heath Cline, commissary secretary and supply specialist. “They don’t take away from any of the contracts and help fill the gaps.”

Volunteers from Moncrief Army Health Clinic, Better Opportunity for Single Soldiers and students on summer break have embraced the opportunity to give their time to help the commissary run smoother, keep the shelves visually pleasing to shoppers and fill the gap of contracted personnel shortages until they can be replaced.

“They are still low on staff and there are critical hires where (employees) don’t have to go through usajobs.com. They just bring their resume to me, and we select and hire,” Cline said. “We are allotted six direct hires and there are four in the pipeline now, but it’s a lengthy process and it can be slow.”

This is where volunteers have been filling the gap, continuing to stock and ‘front’ shelves after contracted personnel have completed their daily duties.

The hours earned by the volunteers is tracked by Cline and volunteers can use their recorded hours for a variety of reasons. Students can use their hours to show a more well-rounded student to universities and colleges they apply for, Soldiers can earn the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal and some volunteer because it brings them joy.

Whatever the reason, Cline is thankful for their service and like to show it.

“Once volunteers complete at least two days, I do a certificate of achievement, $25 gift card and I alert the command team,” Cline said. “I give the hours to (Garrison) Command Sgt. Maj. (Cesar) Duran so he can help get Soldiers the volunteer ribbon.”

Cline explained that volunteers interested in performing duties outside of stocking are available but are at the discretion of the store manager and director.

“We appreciate our volunteers,” Cline said.

Those interested in volunteering at the commissary, Cline said to stop by the commissary during their operation hours and request to speak with him or store manager. Volunteers can schedule their hours for tracking.