(left to right) Charlotte Needham, Betty Marie Fields, Joyce Mason, JBM-HH Commander Col. Kimberly A. Peeples and Tamsen DeWitt converse during the base Army Community Service celebration Friday. Photo by Julia Simpkins

ACS, command celebrate volunteer staff

Army Community Service has served Soldiers since 1965, providing an array of Family support services. On every Army installation, its staffs offer much-needed programs to promote Soldier and Family resiliency. Its partnership with unit commands has helped Soldiers worldwide.

For all the help ACS provides, however, it relies heavily on volunteers for administrative help and customer service, said Dan Furlano, ACS director at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.

“These are the folks who work at the front door so our people can do their jobs,” he said. “They’re committed to our ‘just cause’ which is serving Soldiers and that’s critical.”

On Friday, 17 ACS volunteers were honored for their service at a luncheon in Alexandria, Virginia. Program directors and staff members joined the JBM-HH command team in saluting the group, whose combined service adds up to 160 years.

Marcia O’Connor is the vice president of the ACS Volunteer Association, a 501c(3) private organization, that trains and has oversight of its volunteer force and receives donations to support Army Family programs. She helped organize the event and has a long history of volunteerism.

“I came to Fort Myer in 1996, working as the Exceptional Family Member Program manager,” O’Connor said. “I stayed there until I retired in 2013.”

As soon as she retired, she joined the ACS Volunteer Association as its vice president.

“I make sure the private status (of the charity) is current with the command, and I handle a lot of administrative components for the board. I do training for the reception desk, before they (volunteers) assume the duty,” she said.

O’Connor said she works closely with Furlano, making sure the help her charity offers legally complies with Army regulations while meeting the needs of current service members.

“We try to strategically plan during the year to see how we can serve the military,” O’Connor said. “We get support from the chapel and (Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation). For instance, we have a program to help the military called ‘Planning Ahead for the Military Spouse’ that teaches (civilian) spouses what to do in the event that their military spouse dies. It teaches who they should call and helps with the different agencies and the paperwork so the person can mourn without worrying about how to handle the different paperwork and agencies. Our speaker has a vast knowledge in the most current information from agencies, such as, Arlington National Cemetery, casualty assistance and (the Defense Finance and Accounting Agency). Whatever we can do, we certainly want to do it.”

Emily Wilson, age 85, started volunteering when her husband, retired Col. James Wilson, was post commander in 1984.

“With his job I got a bunch of new jobs,” she said. “His secretary at the time helped me. She made it easy to meet all these people. He retired in 1987 but I continued at ACS.”

Health concerns for her and her husband led her to quit in 2011. She said she was inspired by another military spouse, who’d spent her life volunteering.

“The outcome of that was that I volunteered for 30 years,” she said. “I like the staff people and the way they offer the Soldiers services. I have a grandson in the Army now. I tell him to go to ACS when he needs help.”

Another longtime ACS volunteer at the ceremony was Joyce Mason, age 97, who started volunteering as a child.

“I was an air raid warden in England during World War II when I was in my teens,” Mason said. “When the sirens went off, we had to go around the neighborhoods making sure everyone had their black shades down and got to an air raid shelter.

“I married my husband in 1946 and came to America and have been totally wrapped up in being an American volunteer since then. I came to ACS in the 1970s and was working at the (reception) desk, and eventually the treasurer retired so I was treasurer until I retired in 2013 (from 1988). The volunteer work has been something I’ve always enjoyed doing. I do miss it, but I’m just not able to do it anymore.”

During her remarks JBM-HH Commander Col. Kimberly A. Peeples said ACS and its volunteers are at the heart of the JBM-HH Garrison.

“The time and talents our ACS volunteers give of themselves to support us are integral to mission readiness and well-being of Soldiers and their Families,” said Peeples. “We’re very grateful for their efforts, as we really couldn’t do what we do without them.”

By Julia Simpkins

JBM-HH Command Information Officer