By Bob Mathews, DFMWR Marketing Publicity SpecialistSeptember 10, 2009
FORT STEWART, Ga. Marcia Steele, who was honored recently with the Emma Marie Baird Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service, doesn't have to hear the words "thank you" when she helps someone.
She really likes to hear those words, of course. But she said her deepest, "heartfelt satisfaction" comes just from the knowledge that "I have been able to help someone. I have done a kind deed."
Steele, wife of deployed Army Staff Sgt. Joseph Steele, was the first Hunter Army Airfield recipient of the award in about 19 years. She was nominated for providing more than 4,000 hours of service to Army Community Services and other organizations since 2006.
"I call her 'Miss Hunter,' because she is everywhere - weekends, day or night - whenever she is needed, to help Soldiers and their Families," said Renee McClinton, volunteer coordinator for Hunter. In nominating Steele for the award, McClinton used words such as "unselfish dedication" and "untiring efforts" to describe Steele's volunteer work with young and old, with the Directorate of Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation, with Child and Youth Services and in the community at large.
"She has prepared and delivered holiday meals and Welcome Home bags for single Soldiers returning from deployment. She baked and provided over 1,800 brownies, cookies and 30 homemade pound cakes during Operation Pound Cake and Operation Sweet Bake in support of deployed Soldiers," a portion of the nomination reads.
So, what is Steele's motivation'
One, she said, is that she is an "empty nester" who has to do battle with degenerative disk disease, rheumatoid arthritis and chronic asthma.
"But my philosophy is that I am not going to let that keep me down," she said. "I want to help people in spite of this, because I could easily sit in the house and feel sorry for myself and get into a deep mode of depression. I feel like every day above ground is a great day."
Another, she said, is that "heartfelt satisfaction" she gets when she is able to help someone. She is seldom seen without a smile, but often is seen doing the little things that are a big help to others.
"If I see a Soldier walking around here in the rain, or in the extreme heat down here in Georgia, I'll stop and give them a ride. If you are driving by in a car, you can usually pick someone up and give them a ride to the shoppette, or from the shoppette back to the barracks.
"Sometimes, I'll see a whole Family walking, with a whole ton of groceries, and I will stop and pick up the whole Family and give them a ride home," Steele said.
She makes bouquets from flowers that otherwise would have been discarded after brunches and similar events and takes them to the homes of spouses whose husbands are deployed. Steele said it is her way of saying, "You are loved."
Some of the spouses don't know how to ask for help, Steele said, so they just sit there and suffer by themselves. Visiting or helping those spouses, she "is just a friendly face to say, 'You know, you don't have to go through this alone.'"
Steele has a daughter, Lolita, who lives with her husband, Carl, in Detroit.
"Our little pride and joy is our grandson, Carl Edward Mason Jr.," Steele said.
Steele's tendency to exceptional service may have come from her upbringing in rural Alabama by her grandmother and grandfather, Alfred and Golee Fox, who always set an example of helping others in need, she said.
The Baird Award memorializes the late Lt. Col. Emma Marie Baird, considered the founder of Army Community Services.