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Volunteers change lives, communities

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By CATRINA FRANCIS
Gold Standard Senior Staff Writer
catrina.s.francis2.civ@mail.mil
Changing lives and communities is a fitting theme for the annual National Volunteer Week. It describes the dedication and hard work of those who selflessly volunteer their time with various on- and off-post organizations.
The week kicks off Sunday at Houston Bowling Center with a free volunteer bowling party for volunteers and their Family members and a volunteer information fair Wednesday at the Post Exchange to discuss future volunteer position descriptions.
“Our major event will be held April 10 from 7-9 p.m.—the Outstanding Volunteer of the Year red carpet event at Waybur Theater,” said Yolande Jackson-Smalls, the Army Volunteer Corps Program manager for the installation. “Everything is free for installation volunteers and their Families.”
Jackson-Smalls said the week is also about highlighting the post’s unpaid workforce who work for organizations such as the American Red Cross, Army Community Service, Big Brothers Big Sisters, family readiness groups, Ireland Army Community Hospital and others.
“We have so many volunteers working in different capacities on the installation,” explained Jackson-Smalls. “Volunteers are reaching out on a daily basis (by) changing lives, helping at the hospital by holding the hand of a patient who doesn’t have a Family member here on the installation.
“When I look at the theme ‘Army volunteers changing lives and communities,’ that’s what our volunteers do. Not only do they change lives in the Fort Knox community, they change lives in the local community.”
Jackson-Smalls pointed out that this year she’s had several projects in the local community and Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division and 19th Engineer Battalion have volunteered to help with the upcoming homeless shelter. She added that the local communities have also reciprocated by assisting the Fort Knox community through Feeding America, which takes care of seniors and financially challenged Families and the Backpack Program.
“(The Backpack Program) helps children (who) are financially challenged,” she said. “They take home that extra meal to ensure they have something to eat over the weekend. These organizations outside our installation are helping military Families, and our military Families (and) Soldiers are going out volunteering in these local agencies and building a stronger local as well as a stronger community within the gates of Fort Knox.”
On April 10, Jackson-Smalls said 56 outstanding volunteers who were nominated by organizations in the Fort Knox community will be honored in six different categories: youth, active duty military, Family member, retiree (Family member of an active duty Soldier or retiree), civilian and Family team.
Jackson-Smalls added that she’s thankful for the work that’s done each day by the post’s unpaid workforce.
“I would like to thank each and every volunteer on the installation for all that they do,” Jackson-Smalls said, “all the positive words, all the positive action, all the things that they do on a daily basis to make our community a better place to live. They really do inspire this year’s theme, ‘Changing lives and communities.’”