By Ina StiewitzOctober 21, 2009
HEIDELBERG, Germany -- U.S. Army Garrison Heidelberg's Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers group celebrated the Army program's 20th anniversary last week.
During its birthday celebration, BOSS attached great importance to its three pillars - quality of life, recreation and leisure activity, and community service - while spending a day with first to fifth graders at Patrick Henry Elementary School Oct. 13.
Eleven BOSS volunteers provided help to the school in different ways. Supporting the teachers by reading to the class, or talking and singing with the students, but also helping to carry supplies and cleaning the storage room were part of their responsibilities.
"We've had an ongoing relationship with BOSS for the last two years. They are reading to the kids, conducting aerobics, and playing games," said David Groat, assistant principal at PHES.
"What I mostly like about volunteering at the school is being with the kids and observing how they react and behave towards adults," said Spc. Kathryn Bowman, 243rd Engineer Detachment, who volunteered for the day. "You can see that some kids are really shy."
Bowman volunteered to read a story about Christopher Columbus to first graders, followed by coloring pictures and singing a Christopher Columbus song.
The attendance of Soldiers at the school is an unusual experience for the kids, according to Groat.
"When the kids see Soldiers in their uniform, they see their parents, who are on active duty or even deployed," Groat said. "Having the Soldiers at our school is a way for the children to be connected to the community."
The students enjoyed the BOSS service day, and a lot of them clung to the Soldiers' sides. Playing "duck-duck-goose" or basketball at the school's playground were highlights of the day.
The time outside at the playground is not only the most fun bringing part of BOSS's service day, but also a great resource for the school, the Soldiers and the students.
"The greatest resource is to have adult trainers on the playground," Groat said. "The kids get so excited about the Soldiers playing with them, and that is great to see."
The Soldiers constantly interacted with the kids. They either taught them to throw a ball into the basket or played a basketball game with them, where they formed a Soldiers' team versus a student team.
"BOSS is a great program, because it helps Soldiers to interact with the community," Bowman said.
Teachers, secretaries, students and the supervisors at the playground all agreed that it is great to have the volunteers at the school.
"We thank BOSS for the ongoing process, and we look forward to expand ways of volunteering for them to all schools," Groat said. "Whenever they are available, they are welcome at our school."
The BOSS birthday week ended with Soldiers from the USAG Heidelberg community participating in a community run and holding a music and barbecue bash at Slapshots Oct. 16, an event that attracted more than 220 community members.
(Editor's Note: Ina Stiewitz writes for the USAG Baden-Wuerttemberg newspaper, the Herald Post)