SCHINNEN, Netherlands - AFNORTH International School celebrated the arrival of summer vacation June 17 with an "end-of-school-year party" funded with prize money from USAG Schinnen's 2009 Army Communities of Excellence (ACOE) award - and your ideas are welcome to suggest how the remaining funds can be spent to benefit the entire military community.

In 2009, USAG Schinnen won $200K in the ACOE competition as "most improved garrison." In 2010, Schinnen took third place overall, winning an additional $250K.

ACOE is an annual competition that focuses on improvements in the environment, services and facilities, and working and living conditions, while renewing pride and developing a sense of accomplishment in the community.

"The clock is ticking. The $200K winnings from 2009 must be spent by Sep. 30, 2010, and because contracts take time, we need to get them processed by mid August," said Laura LaMarche, Schinnen's Director of Plans, Analysis and Integration Office.

The 2010 prize money doesn't expire until Sep. 30, 2011. "Because we're in a distinct location and our services reach across borders to Army, Air Force and other military personnel assigned in the Tri-Border region, we're looking for suggestions from across the community," LaMarche said.

Every idea receives a legal review and is considered by the ACOE headquarters to ensure it meets the intent of the ACOE program.

ACOE funds have already been designated to support community concerts for the July AmericaFest and may also support future Army Entertainment, Armed Forces Entertainment and USO events.

Schinnen's Community Activity Center is receiving a sound system upgrade to make it a better entertainment venue. "It's great when our budget gets a well deserved boost. When the garrison's performance leads to nearly half-a-million dollars more, our customers win," said Kim Wayland, Director of Schinnen's Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation Directorate.

ACOE funds have also been used to replace the old washers and dryers in the Fitness Center, and USAG Schinnen customers will soon see new outdoor furniture around the post. The Child Development Center, operated by USAG Schinnen but located on JFC Brunssum, is also benefiting with furniture, equipment and supplies to improve services for toddler, infants and preschoolers.

The Education Center purchased a computer server with ACOE funds, which will be used for Prometric training, according to Byron Johnson, Schinnen's Education Services Officer.

"Prometric is a leading global provider of comprehensive testing and assessment services, so customers will be able to complete more certification and licensing tests online at the Schinnen Education Center," explained Johnston.

Like every U.S. Army garrison, USAG Schinnen maintains a first responder capability. ACOE funds helped purchase medical diagnostic equipment that is now part of the first aid capabilities for day-to-day responses or actual crises.

ACOE standards are becoming the norm for Army installations. "At one time, garrisons had a choice to participate in ACOE, and now we're seeing the ACOE-Baldrige criteria being integrated into day-to-day operations," said LaMarche.