FORT STEWART, Ga. - Every year, on the fourth Saturday of October, millions of people across the U.S. reach out to those in need as part of a national day to help others. This year, Soldiers of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division joined in on the nationwide effort and turned "Make a Difference Day" into an ongoing community outreach program.

"This is an opportunity for the Soldiers to give back to a community, which often gives back to us," said Lt. Col. George Lewis, commander of 4-3 Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th IBCT. "It didn't take a special day for the Soldiers to do this."

About a month ago, Lt. Col. Lewis' wife, Michelle, jump-started an initiative to help local high school students. Combining Make a Difference Day with 4-3 BSTB's Adopt-a-School program, she came up with the idea to donate formal and semi-formal gowns to Bradwell Institute students who are unable to afford them.

"I know it can be expensive. So, (we wanted) to be able to offset the cost and still give them (Bradwell students) that Cinderella feel," Michelle said, adding that the 4-3 BSTB Soldiers helped donate more than 100 dresses, Oct. 20.

One 4-3 Soldier, Pfc. Julia Sanders, said she donated four gowns.

"I have a lot of dresses," she said. "It's nice to be able to give back, and these girls can look just as good as everyone else without having to spend money."

Sergeant Emily Iler donated three dresses. She said she too had several gowns she's worn at weddings and Army formals.

Michelle said the battalion is still accepting dress donations and hopes that every Bradwell Institute student will be able to attend senior prom in May 2010.

It's in a book
The Vanguard Brigade's Headquarters Company also gave back to their adopted school as Soldiers read books to Kessler Elementary School children at Fort Stewart, Oct. 21.

Company Commander Capt. Robert Gordon said that reading to the children helps some cope with deployment. He said the children tend to associate a uniformed Soldier with their deployed parent and enjoy the Soldiers' visit.

Private First Class Michelle Robinson, HHC, said this was her second time reading to Kessler students.

"I love reading to the kids," she said, adding that she likes to volunteer. "They (the children) love to see the Soldiers."

Captain Gordon said his Soldiers plan to revisit Kessler next month.

Four-legged friends
While some 4th IBCT units reached out to students, Soldiers with the 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, made a difference for the four-legged community members. Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Robert Reynolds; his spouse, Carol; and Troop B's 2nd Lt. Richard Eherenmen, Staff Sgt. Jesse Deloatch, Cpl. Jeff Hissen and Spc. Zachary Wilson spent Oct. 24 at the Liberty County Humane Society. The Mustang team tended to and cared for nearly 40 dogs and 50 cats who reside at the shelter.

"There is so much that we're trying to do for the community," said Staff Sgt. Deloatch, while he helped clean and organize one of the shelter's storage rooms.

The 6/8 Cavalry Soldiers also fed and washed the animals during their visit. They said their unit plans to take part in other community outreach programs before the 4th IBCT's next deployment.

The Liberty County Humane Society is also accepting donations. Donate dog or cat food, cat litter, blankets or towels to 279 Briarwood Circle off Airport Road. For more information, contact Traci Wheeler at 767-9310.