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Volunteers Strengthen Communities
by U.S. Army Author
September , 2021

Volunteers serve as the heartbeat of a community, enriching it with much-needed support and contributions that affect the lives of many.

Community members gathered at LeRay Mansion on October 13, 2018 for the inaugural Beautify LeRay Day event, where volunteers planted dozens of trees and flower beds throughout the historic district. Volunteers serve as the heartbeat of a community, and the Fort Drum Army Volunteer Corps serves to help community members find opportunities to donate their time and energy in meaningful ways. (U.S. Army photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)
Community members gathered at LeRay Mansion on October 13, 2018 for the inaugural Beautify LeRay Day event, where volunteers planted dozens of trees and flower beds throughout the historic district. Volunteers serve as the heartbeat of a community, and the Fort Drum Army Volunteer Corps serves to help community members find opportunities to donate their time and energy in meaningful ways. (U.S. Army photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)

Dani Reed, Fort Drum Army Volunteer Corps program manager, recently spoke at the Community Information Exchange about volunteer opportunities on post and in the tri-county area.

“The Army Volunteer Corps was actually designed to help individuals within the military community – and that can be Soldiers, family members, dependents, youths, retirees, civilians – find ways to volunteer,” she said. “We are here to help get you connected and find what fits for yourself.”

Reed said that the number of people volunteering through the Army Volunteer Corps program has increased from last year, although the need at some volunteer organizations is greater.

“People are still concerned about COVID-19, but with more people getting their immunizations I think that is why we see our numbers steadily growing,” she said. “But there are a lot of opportunities out there for people to get involved and make a difference. By volunteering, you get to connect with your community and make it a better place.”

Currently, there are 188 organizations registered in the Volunteer Management Information System, with active volunteer opportunities.

“When you locate the organization and position you want to volunteer for, there is a point of contact for that particular position,” Reed said. “You can give them a call and find out a little bit more about the organization and that position, and get connected with that community.”

Ashleigh Pursel Carlin is president of the Fort Drum chapter of GivingTuesdayMilitary (GTM), which was organized by military spouses and launched in 2019. Giving Tuesday originated in 2012 as a worldwide movement to encourage and inspire generosity, whether through random acts of kindness or organized activities and events in the community.

“I learned about the GTM when we arrived at Fort Drum last year,” said Pursel Carlin. “I was looking at the various volunteer opportunities in the area. Kindness was needed after such a hard year, so the mission went on while respecting COVID restrictions.”

The Fort Drum chapter is organizing a “24 hours of kindness” event on November 30, 2021.

“Starting at midnight, we will be out in the community making kindness waves,” she said. “We have big ideas to sprinkle kindness throughout the Fort Drum community – schools, hospitals, first responders, military – but our efforts are limited by the amount of participation.”

To that end, they are currently recruiting more volunteers to the cause.

“The more volunteers, the bigger the impact,” Pursel Carlin said. “Volunteers can participate in any capacity. We are holding meetings for creative collaboration to see how we can make the biggest kindness impact.”

She said that acts of kindness can be as simple as leaving a positive note on a neighbor’s car or a colleague’s desk, bringing a snack to gate guards and first responders or coffee to medical staff.

Justin Bath, an Eagle Scout with Fort Drum’s Troop 26 B, (left) leads a team of volunteers to build a bell tower near a historic gravesite at LeRay Mansion on post during October 2019. (U.S. Army photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)
Justin Bath, an Eagle Scout with Fort Drum’s Troop 26 B, (left) leads a team of volunteers to build a bell tower near a historic gravesite at LeRay Mansion on post during October 2019. (U.S. Army photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)

“One of our biggest act of kindness is giving the gift of life by donating blood,” Pursel Carlin said. “We will have two locations on Fort Drum this year, aiming to collect 100 units of blood. This would be the biggest collection of blood on Fort Drum in about five years, if not longer.”

Pursel Carlin also serves as a program specialist with the American Red Cross, which has an office at the Family Resource Center, Bldg. 11042 on Mount Belvedere Boulevard. She said that they are also seeking volunteers for blood drives and other special events at Fort Drum and in the surrounding community.

During the global pandemic, blood donations were deemed safe, and it poses no threat to donors or to the nation’s blood supply. Pursel Carlin said that medical staff and volunteers adhere to safety protocols during blood drives.

“The Red Cross will ensure volunteers are following safety guidelines and standards,” she said. “For anyone who is hesitant to participate in in-person volunteering, remote volunteer opportunities, such as casework, are available.”

Units throughout the 10th Mountain Division (LI) have volunteer positions for spouses within its Soldier and Family Readiness Groups – from leadership positions and key callers to care team members.

Volunteers receive training through the Mobilization and Deployment Readiness program, which is offered at least once every month depending on the position. Additional training can be scheduled and tailored to volunteers’ needs if requested.

“Every company, troop or battery has to have an SFRG as a communication plan between the command and families,” said Lynn Williams, Mobilization and Deployment Readiness specialist. “It’s a commander’s program that requests volunteers because it needs to be a team effort to make it work.”

Williams said that spouses who volunteer become more connected to the unit, and that better enables family members to communicate and receive information from the command team.

“Soldier readiness plus family readiness equals unit readiness,” she said. “The Soldiers and spouses are on one cohesive team, so it’s not ‘us-and-them.’”

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