Airmen active in volunteer efforts

USAF photo: Greg Allen April 19-25 is National Volunteer Week, a week that recognizes volunteer efforts such as last year’s community cleanup day by Cannon airmen. A total of 94,000 pounds of trash was removed during the event and airmen plan on participating again April 25.

By Greg Allen: 27th SOW Public Affairs

“Celebrating People in Action,” is this year’s theme for National Volunteer Week, April 19-25, but it could just as easily describe an entire year of volunteer efforts made by the Cannon community.

“Whether it’s airmen building a home, mentoring students or giving their time to one of the many service organizations, volunteers make a positive difference in the community,” said Ellen Saccoia-Smith, community readiness consultant for the Airmen & Family Readiness Center here.

She said that in the past there would be social activities celebrating volunteers during the week, “but now it’s more about substance,” or celebrating what volunteers mean to a community.

While airmen at Cannon are renown throughout the local area for their volunteering endeavors, the spirit of giving extends back to the base as well, said John Fondrick, a community readiness technician who manages the base’s Transition Assistance Program.

“Military organizations such as the (Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Veterans), American Legion and the (Disabled Veterans) have offered their services to the base,” he said. “Most recently they offered to support the base honor guard in its cere.monial duties.”

What Fondrick was referring to were the veterans organizations that trained with the base honor guard in the Authorized Provider Partnership Program, which allows honor guardsmen, volunteers themselves, to better serve the community in providing honors to veterans during funeral services.

It’s difficult to put a monetary value on the work done here by volunteers, said Saccoia-Smith. A national survey did find, however, that almost 84 million people in the United States volunteered an equivalent of 9 million full-time employee hours in a year, at an estimated value of $239 million.

The results of a volunteer’s efforts can range from a new home built with the hands and know-how of airmen, to a cleaner community, as evidenced by last year’s community cleanup efforts.

“These people have hearts of gold,” said Lori Kennedy in March 2007, as she watched her home being built in nearby Portales.

“It shows the love of people for humanity,” she added.

She has long since moved into her home and airmen moved on to other homebuilding projects.

In April 2007, 252 airmen joined the community in a clean-up effort that resulted in 94,000 pounds less garbage on the streets. On April 25, Cannon airmen will again participate in the biannual event.

Without Cannon’s efforts the day would have been much less successful, said Rob Carter, Clovis Parks and Recreation director.

Volunteering for many becomes part of what makes a tour of duty at Cannon meaningful.

“There are some airmen who arrive and complain that there isn’t anything to do,” said Saccoia-Smith. “Then they get involved in a volunteer program, and when they leave, hope their new assignment has the same program available.”

“Whether it’s the Food Bank, Matt 25 Hope Center, Big Brother/Big Sister or The Lighthouse, there are many groups that need help and appreciate what airmen provide,” said Fondrick. “Today’s volunteers continue a long-standing tradition of efforts.

Individuals interested in volunteering can call the Airman & Family Readiness Center at 784-4228 to see how they can volunteer.