By CATRINA FRANCIS
Gold Standard Senior Staff Writer
It’s always been said that it’s better to give than to receive. Fort Knox volunteers have taken that old saying to heart through their selfless giving of time and talent to the many programs and organizations on the installation.
On April 10, Fort Knox recognized its unpaid workforce during the annual Volunteer of the Year Ceremony.
“The gardens of kindness never fade,” said Ryan Noble, the narrator for this year’s ceremony. “Your genuine commitments and support are truly appreciated.”
Although the 56 volunteers were nominated in six categories they all share a common ground—giving their time instead of seeking paid employment and providing a hand to those in need.
Each nominee received the President’s Volunteer Service Award complete package which included a personalized certificate, lapel pin (bronze, silver, gold or lifetime) depending on volunteer hours documented in the Volunteer Management Information System and a congratulatory letter signed by President Barack Obama. In the letter Obama congratulated the volunteers for addressing the most pressing needs in their community and the country.
“In my inaugural address I stated that we need a new era of responsibility –recognition on the part of every American that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world,” said Obama in the congratulatory letter. “These duties that we do not grudgingly accept, but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit than giving our all to a difficult task.
“Your volunteer service demonstrates the kind of commitment to your community that moves America a step closer to its great promise… Thank you for your devotion to service and for doing all you can to shape a better tomorrow for our great nation.”
In addition to the letter, pin and certificate, the winner in each of the six categories also received a Department of the Army Certificate of Appreciation signed by Brig. Gen. Peggy Combs, the commander of Cadet Command and Fort Knox; an Army Volunteers Corps Program engraved Outstanding Volunteer of the Year crystal plaque and a $100 gift card.
Excerpts from the nomination forms follow.
Richard Thackrey was named Youth Outstanding Volunteer of the Year for his contributions and service at Devers Middle School and Teen Center. Richard displayed confidence, a positive voice and willingness to assist in any way possible. He is a junior counselor for summer camps, provides quality customer service at the front desk and assists with domestic engineering duties. Richard is an honor student and he received academic letters during his freshman, sophomore and junior years. He is also involved in JROTC, cross-country, National Honor Society, band and color guard.
Staff Sgt. Mark Vibbert was selected as the Active Duty Military Outstanding Volunteer of the Year for his loyal support and true dedication as a mentor of today’s youth. Coach Vibbert is involved in numerous activities working to enhance social development, emotional well-being and improve the quality of play of young athletes. He diligently coached the first Fort Knox youth sports minor league tackle football team enabling them to play in the youth football league’s Super Bowl. His self-discipline and wise, thoughtful and progressive leadership as well as keen sense of responsibility epitomize true commitment to his coaching duties and the youth of the Fort Knox community.
Sandra Bousum was named the Family Member Outstanding Volunteer of the Year for her incredible dedication and tremendous support to the American Red Cross Program. She provided assistance to Ireland Army Community Hospital, blood drives, Junior Red Cross, Helping Hands and the Santa’s Workshop Program. She also juggled numerous planning tasks, coordinated special events and responsible for overseeing a large group of diverse volunteers. Bousum recruited volunteers for each program and developed volunteer related procedures and policies. Her flawless strategic planning abilities enabled her to develop The Candy Cane Lane Program which provided children of financially challenged military Families a chance to shop for family holiday gifts.
Michael Trombone was selected as the Retiree Outstanding Volunteer of the Year because he displayed the spirit of excellence in his endless efforts and willingness to assist Soldiers and Families of the Fort Knox community. His insightfulness provided assistance to Helping Hands shift leaders and he willingly trained volunteers in order to provide prompt and quality assistance to financially challenged Soldiers and their Families. He placed donation bins in various offices on the installation in order to collect nonperishable foods items during the holiday season, when Trombone bagged more than 300 bags of groceries in support of military Families. He also provided dedicated volunteer service to the Santa’s Workshop Program and the Run for the Red special event.
Brittany Page was named the Fort Knox Civilian Outstanding Volunteer of the Year by showing great leadership in assuming the responsibilities of the Junior Red Cross and Summer Youth Volunteer Program. Page planned fun and unusual activities to teach the students of Junior Red Cross safety and the ability to act instinctively when faced with disaster. She is a great asset in the day-to-day managing of the Candy Cane Lane Program; she assisted with blood drives and was helpful during the Run for the Red events. During the summer months Page scheduled and assisted with youth volunteer interviews and provided placement and ensured hours were recorded.
Clint and Mildred Meshew were selected as the Family Team Outstanding Volunteer of the Year for their remarkable running record of assisting 8,212 veterans and Family members. Without this service many veterans and survivors would not receive full benefits in combat-related special compensation and concurrent retirement disability compensation. The impact of their service to not only the Fort Knox community, but to the nation is immense and a true testament of their motto “Veterans Helping Veterans.”
Combs said the ceremony was a great way to honor folks who don’t want to be honored.
“You don’t do it for praise or money, you do it for love of others,” said Combs.
Combs also thanked the presenters for volunteering taking time out to present the awards to the Outstanding Volunteers of the Year and she also thanked the 113th Army Band. She jokingly said, “We will nominate (the 113th Army Band) to play at (next year’s) Academy Awards.”
She pointed out that 3,240 volunteers worked 70,417 hours and that equated to saving the Fort Knox community more than $1.53 million from March 2013 to March 2014.
“It’s not about money,” she said. “What you volunteers give is more precious than money. (You give) your time and talent, you can’t put a price tag on that. We call that priceless.”