More than 600 volunteers for Winn Army Community Hospital and Fort Stewart’s Medical and Dental Activity Command were honored for their dedication and personal sacrifice Monday during an award ceremony at the hospital’s Patriot Room.
The volunteers combined for about 20,500 hours of service to the facilities, which saved the military community nearly $500,000.
“Our purpose here today is to thank those soldiers and family members who volunteer to help the MEDDAC community,” said Col. Ronald J. Place, commander of Winn and Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield MEDDAC. “Let me just give you some numbers. In 1999, there were 10 volunteers at Winn. By 2012, there are more than 600 volunteers.”
Place said the volunteers were divided between what he called Red Cross volunteers and community-enhancement volunteers.
The event was hosted by Brigitte Shanken, Winn’s director of volunteer services. Bill Cathcart, WTOC’s vice president and general manager, served as guest speaker.
Cathcart told volunteers and guests that volunteering one’s time and services without pay or expectation of recognition is like planting a tree without the expectation of one day sitting in the shade of that tree.
“Today’s reduced funding and budget cutbacks makes your volunteer services all the more valuable,” he said, adding that the true value of their services is really “beyond calculation.” “Nothing in life is free, and that includes volunteering. You know that, if only from the gas you use to come here in order to volunteer your services.”
One by one, each of the volunteers was recognized and awarded a certificate by Place and Sgt. Maj. Thomas Wrighton Jr., interim Winn command sergeant major.
A special award to Winn for its support of Honor Flight Savannah for World War II veterans was given to Place by Army Reserve Ambassador Luis Carreras.
Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas presented several awards on behalf of U.S. Congressman Jack Kingston, including an award for Shanken and special recognition of Jutta Brooks for her 45 years of volunteer service.
“I started volunteering at a hospital in Virginia when my husband went to Vietnam,” Brooks said, smiling the same friendly smile that has greeted soldiers and family members at military hospitals for more than four decades. “I started out working in the lab; then when we moved to Charleston, I started working in an administrative role for the hospital commander of the Naval hospital. That was great.”
Brooks said she and her husband moved near Darien because her husband loved to fish, which is what she said he spent most of his time doing when he retired. She, however, immediately came to Winn to see where she might be needed as a volunteer.
“I used to work in the pharmacy here, but I had to give that up because I can’t reach up high to get the baskets,” Brooks said. “It does something for you inside when you help people. That’s why I do it.”
When her husband died in 2003, Brooks went right back to volunteering. It’s something she feels called to do as long as she’s able to do it.
“This was just one hour out of a year we spend recognizing our volunteers,” Place said to conclude the ceremony. “As you reflect on today, shake the hand of those (volunteers) you’ve seen here today.”