The late Muhammad Ali once said, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.”
Each year the post honors its unpaid workforce through National Volunteer Week which is Sunday through April 29. This year’s theme is “Army Volunteers Service for Life.”
“I think (this year’s theme) is appropriate because volunteers provide a service to our nation for life,” said Yolande Jackson-Smalls, the Fort Knox Army Volunteer Corps program manager.
During the week there will be several events on Fort Knox to honor volunteers who provide service on and off post. The week begins Monday with an AVC volunteer recruitment fair and display from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. in the lobby of the Exchange; Wednesday an ice cream social from 1:30-3:30 p.m. at Army Community Service, Bldg. 1477; and the Outstanding Volunteer of the Year ceremony April 27 at 6 p.m. at the Saber & Quill’s Signature Room.
Jackson-Smalls said the theme is very important because of the service volunteers provide on a daily, monthly and annual basis which is taking care of the community, not only the Army community, but also the local communities that surround the installation.
“When I think of service for life the first thing that comes to mind is my seniors, my silver stars, those individuals who have provided 30 or 35 years of volunteer service,” said Jackson-Smalls. “I have many volunteers on the installation and I have one (who’s) 80 years old and I have one (who’s) 76 years old, and I have the pleasure of knowing those two.”
She added that there are a lot who have provided volunteer service throughout their lifetime who become mentors to younger people. When youth see senior volunteers and hear their stories all it does is convince them why it’s important to volunteer, and why it’s important to give back to the community in which they live, work and play, explained Jackson-Smalls.
She pointed out that military spouses also have an opportunity to volunteer because it fills the gap in their resume while they are searching for employment when the Family moves to a new installation. And their Soldier is also volunteering because his life is about serving the nation.
Jackson-Smalls added that Army volunteers are unique because they can work together and work as one big family. They don’t have to know one another but they have the ability to come together and support a cause whether it’s a coat drive, food drive or Make a Difference Day. It doesn’t matter, she said, because they can always unite just like they’ve known each other for a lifetime to get the job done.
Jackson-Smalls said she was also happy about the 50 nominations for Volunteer of the Year that were received this year which is seven more than last year.
“I’m very excited …being that our installation has changed,” Jackson-Smalls said. “That lets us know our volunteer corps hasn’t changed. Individuals are still providing that service to all of our wonderful organizations that assist Soldiers and Families on a daily basis.”
She’s also excited by the youth nominations because to her that means they are being proactive in their community.
“This year I have nine youth nominations which is amazing,” she said. “That lets us know our youth are out there doing some positive things–some great things and getting involved (with various programs on post).”
Even though some individuals might think they don’t have time in their schedule to volunteer, Jackson-Smalls said everyone can volunteer. In fact, she said everyone has volunteered because giving back can mean helping an elderly person across the street or helping someone who might be incapacitated return a cart at one of the local stores. She said volunteer service doesn’t mean three or four hours in an office; it can be anything that’s done to help someone else.
“I don’t think there is anyone in the world who has not provided some type of volunteer service,” she said. “We want to tell those volunteers who believe they don’t have the time that there are volunteer opportunities on the installation for any timeframe. There are volunteer opportunities that can fit your schedule.
“I have more than 26 partners in Hardin County (for) volunteers (who) have full-time jobs and can’t really come out during the week to volunteer. They can go out to Feeding America (or) Habitat for Humanity. The local community is always doing something at some time during the day that will fit your schedule.”
Jackson-Smalls said if someone doesn’t know anything about volunteer opportunities or what will be a fit they need to visit her office, and she promises to find something for them to do. The essence of volunteering is a genuine concern of self and others.
“The reason why I say self is no one goes out and volunteers (without getting) paid unless they are getting some type reward whether it’s a warm and fuzzy (or) I love assisting people or making a difference
in my community,” explained Jackson-Smalls. “Whatever your
reason you stand to gain something for self and then whatever you do in any organization, and the organization gains is a plus because you are there to assist the program manager or organization in (their) daily routine duties.”
As the week nears to honor the installation’s unpaid workforce, Jackson-Smalls said she wants to thank them for a job well done.
“Without you this installation would not be what it is today–you made the difference,” she said. n