By Jason B. CutshawApril 29, 2010
FORT DRUM, N.Y. - Soldiers, Family Members and volunteers across post received recognition for all they give to the installation during the annual Fort Drum Volunteer and Man / Woman of the Mountain appreciation ceremony April 20 at the Commons.
During the past year, 60 volunteers donated their time, representing a savings of $2,028,141 if the time had been paid.
"Thank you for coming to this evening's event and joining me in paying tribute to the 60 Fort Drum volunteers who were nominated for Volunteer of the Year as well as the five individuals who were nominated and selected as this year's Men and Women of the Mountain, for all the dedication and hard work that they have given back to this installation," said Jane Bresko, Fort Drum Army Volunteer Corps program manager.
"Without (volunteers), Fort Drum would be just like any other installation in the Army," Bresko continued. "But we are not. In the words of Col. Kenneth H. Riddle, Fort Drum Garrison commander, we are 'the Army's best kept secret,' and in part, we have our volunteers to thank for that.
"Volunteers truly make the Fort Drum community a better place to live, and tonight we are here to honor these individuals for their contributions," she added.
To begin the ceremony, Bresko invited Maj. Gen. James L. Terry, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander, to speak to the recipients and thank them for all of their hard work on behalf of the post community.
"I am honored to be here tonight to present the Volunteer of the Year awards," Terry
said. "America has a long and proud tradition of volunteer service. Now, more than ever, volunteers are renewing their commitment to helping others and making new connections that bring us closer together as Families, as neighbors, as communities and as a nation.
"Recognizing and honoring volunteers sets a standard for their service, encourages a sustained commitment to civic participation, and inspires others to make service to communities a central part of their lives," he added. "This year's National Volunteer Week recognizes and celebrates people in action. We are here today to honor individuals who dedicate themselves to taking action and solving problems in their communities."
After speaking, Terry invited his wife, Julie, and Riddle to help present the Man and Woman of the Mountain Awards, which recognizes individuals from the community for their contributions to Fort Drum.
The first awardee was Denise Young, Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization executive director. Young sponsored a planning summit to build upon the ongoing partnership between Fort Drum's U.S. Army Medical Department Activity and civilian northern New York health care providers. New York state's participation was a direct result of Young's passion and efforts towards providing the best possible medical care to Soldiers and their Families.
Under Young's guidance, the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization has provided a platform to analyze the existing health care delivery options to significantly strengthen the health care system serving the more than 38,000 Department of Defense beneficiaries in the Fort Drum.
The next recipient of the award was Tina Wildhaber, who has volunteered her time, finances and organizational abilities for countless community events for more than 10 years. She has donated her personal funds to Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, and she has held benefits to raise funds for the organization.
Wildhaber has attended numerous welcome home ceremonies on behalf of Association of the United States Army, showing her support for Soldiers. Additionally, she is a supporter of the 10th Mountain Division Scholarship and Wounded Warrior funds.
"I am really overwhelmed; this is quite an honor," Wildhaber said. "It is very important to support troops. They need to know that there are people in the community who are truly interested in what they do.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I think this would happen," she added. "It is a privilege, and I am honored to be here."
Next, was Terry Roche, a retired colonel with 26 years of service who formerly served as Fort Drum's garrison commander. He is currently treasurer of the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization. He is a past president of the Watertown Rotary Club, where he established a scholarship fund for 10th Mountain Division Soldiers who have been awarded the Purple Heart, and their immediate Family Members.
The fourth awardee was Rich Babbitt, a retired colonel who served as Fort Drum's garrison commander from 1996 to 1998. He currently serves on the board of directors for the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization.
Babbitt is an active advocate and supporter of the Boy Scouts of America and the Fallen and Wounded Soldier Fund.
"This is really an honor; I am really excited about it," Babbitt said. "I am in great company, both in terms of the Man and Woman of the Mountain. They are a great group of people, and it is honor to be among them.
"I feel very privileged and honored," he added.
The final recipient was Carl McLaughlin, Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization executive director. Throughout the years, McLaughlin has worked to develop and improve partnerships between the North County and Fort Drum communities to help enhance the lives of Soldiers and Family Members.
"I think this is wonderful; I want to thank everyone for the honor," McLaughlin said. "I am very, very proud of the honor. I understand its importance, and I am very thankful to be selected.
After naming the 2010 Man and Woman of the Mountain recipients, it was time to honor Fort Drum volunteers for all they have done during the past year.
Established in 2003, the President's Volunteer Service Award gives recognition to individuals who have demonstrated a sustained commitment to volunteer service. The award is a way to inspire others to likewise contribute to their communities.
The following groups of volunteers received recognition:
Family Readiness Group volunteers: Jodie Brickson, Jackie Brubaker, Chantay Burleson, Toni Busby, Kristen Castana, Amanda Chadwick, April Clason, Ethel Copeland, Rebecca Corcoran, Valreese Drew-Malbry, Chandra Francis, Amber Fusco, Amy Gillespie, Christina Harris, Shiguella Harvey, Jennifer Humphrey, Joyce James, Leah Jones, Elizbeth Lehtonen, Michele Leone, Cory McCray, Camey McGurk, Denys Morris, Jennie Mucher, Kimberly Parthemore, Jessica Rousseau, Michelle Shi, Jamie Terry, Kim Waldrop, Tanya Walls and Jessica Yankey.
Large Community Group volunteers: Heather DaSilva, Gabriella Del Toro, Tracy Floyd, Amy Gillespie, Kathy Hampton, Tammy Hines, Jennifer Isom, Alyse Kinchen, Kelly Oram, Tyler Piper, Shane Quiring, Sheryl Sad, Richard Smedes, Jamie Terry, Kay Watkins and Shae Williamson.
Small Community Group volunteers: Christina Crawford, Nicole Hayes, Susan Lara-Gonzalez, Miri MacNeilly and Neli Tsitiridis.
Child and Youth Group volunteers: Lisa Beebe, Maurice Jones and Michael Tully.
Youth volunteers: Pamela Code, Andrea Collins, Marcella Sims, Johnna Sims and Robert Michael Tyler.
Officials then presented a few special awards to volunteers who have gone above and beyond their peers.
Volunteer of the Year Awards were presented to individuals who have shown outstanding support for the Fort Drum community. Nominations were collected from agencies, organizations and units across the installation.
Recognized as Volunteers of the Year from their respective groups were Elizbeth Lehtonen, Shae Williamson, Miri MacNeilly, Maurice Jones and Robert Michael Tyler.
The final award of the evening was historic for not only Fort Drum, but also for Army Community Service. The Emma Marie Baird Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service was established Aug. 29, 1988, to memorialize the late retired Lt. Col. Emma Marie Baird, who is considered the founder of Army Community Service.
For outstanding volunteer contributions to the Army Community Service from 2003 to the present while serving as the Army Family Team Building's Volunteer Program manager at Fort Drum, the award was presented to Donna Handoe. During her tenure, Handoe has contributed more than 5,900 hours of volunteer service.