Volunteers from Fort Leonard Wood’s Better Opportunities for Single Service members rake leaves during the installation’s Make a Difference Day event Saturday. More than 500 volunteers turned out to assist with beautification projects across the cantonment area, as well as some of the on-post cemeteries and recreation areas.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Volunteers from Fort Leonard Wood’s Better Opportunities for Single Service members rake leaves during the installation’s Make a Difference Day event Saturday. More than 500 volunteers turned out to assist with beautification projects across the cantonment area, as well as some of the on-post cemeteries and recreation areas. (Photo Credit: Photo by Gabe Medina, Army Community Service) VIEW ORIGINAL
Marny Koch, a USO volunteer, helps bag up snacks for a Soldier outside the Army Community Service building during Fort Leonard Wood’s Make a Difference Day event Saturday. The USO was on hand to treat the volunteers to lunch after they completed post beautification projects. More than 500 people turned out to support this year’s event.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Marny Koch, a USO volunteer, helps bag up snacks for a Soldier outside the Army Community Service building during Fort Leonard Wood’s Make a Difference Day event Saturday. The USO was on hand to treat the volunteers to lunch after they completed post beautification projects. More than 500 people turned out to support this year’s event. (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Hill, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Fort Leonard Wood’s Army Community Service hosted a Make a Difference Day community service event Saturday at locations across the installation.

According to ACS’s Army Emergency Relief Specialist and Army Volunteer Corps Program Manager Kristina Stump, the event coordinator, more than 500 volunteers turned out to rake leaves and do basic landscaping, pick up trash and help make Fort Leonard Wood “a nice place to live.” When the projects were complete, the USO’s mobile unit was on hand to provide lunch for the volunteers.

“It’s important to give back to your community,” Stump said. “It brings us closer together — while we’re beautifying our installation, we’re also building friendships.”

Stump noted active-duty, Reserve and National Guard service members, along with civilian employees, retirees and family members gave their time to help at the event.

“There was a great mix,” she said.

About 15 locations around the post were chosen for the event, including many “high-visibility locations” around the cantonment area, but also some of the cemeteries and recreational areas. Gabe Medina, ACS Relocation program manager and assistant coordinator for Saturday’s event, called the turnout — and the weather — great.

“We couldn’t do this without all the units and organizations and all the people willing to volunteer their time,” he said. “It’s been great, and you couldn’t ask for better weather.”

One of the volunteers this year was 1st Lt. Austin White, executive officer for Company C, 3rd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment — one of the units here that conducts Army Basic Combat Training. White said he heard about the event while volunteering at the Waynesville Animal Shelter, and, knowing how important ACS is for the trainees in his unit, he came out to support by helping register volunteers and then raking leaves.

“It was fun, and I definitely plan on getting more involved,” White said. “Events like Make a Difference Day help bring the community together. It’s all about connections — helping each other out and making connections.”

In addition to Make a Difference Day, ACS also hosted a domestic violence awareness 5K run — October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month — that began just across the street from the ACS building, in the Main Exchange parking lot.

Staff Sgt. Christopher Odlum, a Military Police Advanced Leader Course instructor at the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence NCO Academy, volunteered to help organize the run. He and NCO Academy students here acted as road guards and set up cones and directional arrows, “ensuring it was as simple as possible for people to understand.”

Odlum said being an MP, he understands and has seen the far-reaching effects of domestic violence.

“One in three females is a victim of domestic violence, and one in six males, so having an event like this helps to really get people talking — you can’t solve a problem if you don’t talk about it. The military is a family, and you have to look out for everyone,” he said.