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And the winners are... Eight earn Fort Knox Volunteer of Year honors

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The large banquet room at the Saber & Quill filled with a crowd April 19 as a group of about 50 volunteers sat at the front of the room near tables displayed with awards.

At the podium stood Dr. Yolande Jackson-Smalls, the Fort Knox Army Volunteer Corps Program manager, praising all the 2018 Volunteer of the Year nominees for their accomplishments.

“We are thankful today and every day for the investment that you made and the time that you spend to make our community a better place to live, work, and play,” Jackson-Smalls said prior to the ceremony.

After Jackson-Smalls made her opening remarks, guest speaker Katherine Chung, the 2017 Midwest Region Military Youth of the Year, addressed the crowd.

“Volunteering and serving my community has taught me various life skills and passions,” she said. “I have helped coordinate countless … fund raisers, clothing and canned food drives and carnivals, all of which taught me responsibility and efficiency. I have shelved and stamped almost every book and movie in various libraries, which has taught me organization skills and accountability. I have worked with crying and screaming children, which has taught me patience and kindness.”

Before the ceremony began, nominees and corporate sponsors got the opportunity to walk the red carpet and have their pictures taken before entering the room. Cupcakes iced in various blue jean shades and sprinkled with sparkling candies hinted of this year’s theme: Denim and Diamonds.

“I actually believe this theme stands as a metaphor for service,” Chung said. “The denim represents hours of hard work and dedication each one of you puts into what you do in order to better our Fort Knox community and truly make a difference in the lives of others.

“The diamonds represent the joy, happiness and — bling — that finally results from all the time and energy you put into what you do, so thank you,” she continued.

After much fanfare and regalia, an emcee announced the winners.

Shelby Moore’s eyes widened and a shocked smile quickly rose on her face when her name was called for Civilian Volunteer of the Year. At the same moment, a rowdy row of family members and friends erupted.

Her elation showed no signs of stopping, long after most other people had moved to the back of the room for food and drinks after the ceremony.

“I had no idea [I would win],” she said. “I thought it was an honor that I got to win. Like I said to Yolanda, and my parents and other people, I volunteer here because it’s straight from my heart. I do what I do. I’ve volunteered since I was 12, and I’ve loved it ever since.” She is 23.

Freddie Murphy walked up casually to receive the honor after his name was announced for Retired Soldier Volunteer of the Year.

“I was quite excited. I didn’t expect it,” he said. “I come in every day and do my time trying to give to the community, but you never really expect anything back. You just do what you got to do to help people out and give to the community. If there’s a need, you want to fill that need.”

At the end of the ceremony, a large faux check was presented to Col. Patrick Kaune and Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Griffin, the command team for U.S. Army Garrison. The amount was filled with how much money volunteers have saved Fort Knox this past year through their efforts — $1,090,163.00.

As others enjoyed the denim and diamond cupcakes, Staff Sgt. Shaheem Daily walked quietly to his vehicle with his Active Duty Military Volunteer of the Year awards. He was late for his son’s soccer game.

“Truthfully, I didn’t expect it. My chain of command was like, ‘Yeah, we’re going to put you in for it,’” he said about the award. “When I do it, I do it because I enjoy it. I don’t do it for this kind of stuff. For one, it’s part of my job, and two, I enjoy it the most, especially impacting on little kids.”