WIESBADEN, Germany - It's hard to determine the exact value of volunteer service to a community, but U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden leaders acknowledged the more than $1.69 million work hours contributed in the past year during a Volunteer Recognition Ceremony.

"That number represents only the registered volunteers," said Dr. Robert Schloesser, USAG Wiesbaden's Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation director. "As many of you know, many people never get around to registering."

Col. Jeffrey Dill, USAG Wiesbaden commander, recognized the garrison's top volunteers during the ceremony, held in the Community Activity Center April 29.

"Volunteerism is a personally and professionally rewarding experience," said Dill, thanking all volunteers for their dedicated efforts. Noting the nearly 80,000 volunteer hours contributed over the past year, the commander stressed that besides enriching the quality of life in a community, volunteering also benefits the individual through opportunities such as making new friends and learning vital job skills. "It also enhances employability in today's tough job market.

"Almost 10 percent of our total population gives of their free time to make our community better," said Dill, pointing out that that spirit of volunteerism went a long way toward helping make USAG Wiesbaden this year's Army Community of Excellence Gold Award winner - the best in the Army.

"I think it's very clear that we cannot run this community without the volunteers who step up to bat every day," added Schloesser.

While opening the recognition ceremony, Garrison Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Stephen Demien took a moment to remember two former community volunteers who died in the past two years - Rachel Berger and Deborah Anne Vasko Froehlich. Both were extremely active and well known throughout the Wiesbaden military community.

Special recognition
Eight individuals were singled out for special recognition - Michelle Wicker, Shannon Caladora, LaShawn Merceron, Cindy Fry, Pia Heiges, Anita Libby, Christi Turner and Catharina Chang - for contributing numerous hours with organizations ranging from the Wiesbaden Community Spouses Club to local Scouting programs, chapel activities to support in the chapels and schools.

Eleven people were among the nominees for Volunteers of the Year in the military, adult and youth categories. These included Col. Kenneth R. Tarcza, Lt. Col. John P. Drew, Maj. Steve Davis, Cindy Fry, Michelle Wicker, Alyce Newton, Daniel Boehme, William E. Heiges II, Colin Strout, Chelsea Ryan and Erin Fry. Winners were Military Volunteer of the Year - Drew, Adult Volunteer of the Year - Wicker and Youth Volunteer of the Year - Strout.

As someone who contributed a full-time job's worth of volunteer support as president of the WCSC, with her Family Readiness Group, chapel, the Army Family Action Plan and other activities, Wicker said she felt honored to be recognized. "I volunteer because I think it's important to give back to the community. It's what I enjoy doing. I feel very blessed with the things I've been given."

Calling it "very fulfilling," Wicker encouraged anyone interested in getting involved "to get plugged in - go to the spouses club, go to Army Community Service."

Volunteering is a form of payback as well for Military Volunteer of the Year Drew, deputy commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Europe District.

"Prior to this assignment I was in Iraq - away from my family for 15 months," said Drew, a father of six, praising the numerous volunteers who ensured his family was well taken care of while he was deployed. "I said I would do what I can when I got back."

As a Scout leader, coach and team captain, "he is a role model for other volunteers," said Schloesser.

Eagle Scout Colin Strout, the garrison's Youth Volunteer of the Year, was cited for a wide variety of volunteer contributions including exceptional service with the Outdoor Recreation program, community chapels, Operation Rising Star and improving the quality of life for military working dogs.

"It's fun - you get to hang around with a lot of really cool people," said Strout about volunteering. "Not only am I helping, but I'm learning a lot on the side."

Strout's advice for others interested in getting involved was to "find something that you like to do and will continue doing. You'll learn a lot and help the community as well."

For more information on volunteer opportunities or getting involved, stop by Army Community Service in Hainerberg Housing. To download photos from the ceremony visit the garrison's Flickr page at www.flickr.com/photos/wpao.