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JBLM recognizes outstanding volunteers of the year

Leaders from across Joint Base Lewis-McChord recognized the outstanding volunteers who have dedicated their time and energy over the past year to make a positive impact in the JBLM community with a banquet held at the Club at McChord Field May 23. Photo

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD - Leaders from across Joint Base Lewis-McChord paid tribute to the outstanding volunteers who have positively impacted the base community over the past year with a banquet held at the Club at McChord Field May 23.

The event recognized volunteers from various communities across JBLM including active-duty, civilian, and even one family, who all have used their personal time to make a difference in the lives of others and provided inspiration through their actions.

Lt. Gen. Xavier Brunson, I Corps commanding general at JBLM, said the volunteers have put in a combined average of 51,000 hours of work.

"We here today are inspired and united by your actions and your stewardship of the joint base," Brunson said. "We thank you for serving others, and we thank you for doing good."

Col. David Fazenbaker, 62nd Airlift Wing commander, praised the JBLM volunteers who he said helped to meet the needs of the community that might otherwise have gone missed.

"All the things that we have to do to ensure that our service members are taken care of so that they can take care of the mission, are not things that we can do with paid employees," Fazenbaker said. "And so you, the volunteers in here, are the ones who really make that happen. You fill those gaps. That's what a community does, and I thank you for being a part of this community."

This year's award winners were selected from nominations submitted earlier this year by their teammates and supervisors. Each winner was presented with an engraved clock to represent the value of time and a special certificate of appreciation, along with various other items from participating sponsors.

The Adult Volunteer of the Year award was presented to Anna Wilkerson, for her tireless efforts over the past year advocating for the Hillside community for whom she serves as community mayor. Wilkerson has also been a strong voice for local families with school-age children, serving as vice president for the Hillside Elementary School parent-teacher organization, a parent ambassador for the Clover Park School District site council, serving on the facilities advisory board, and the parent connections council.

In addition, Wilkerson also spends time helping with the Church of Pug rescue organization that helps find forever homes for Pugs and other small breed dogs. Wilkerson said she was honored to have been recognized.

"This is really amazing, and I am still shocked that I was selected," Wilkerson said. "But it's really an honor to be here and to be recognized like this. I think it's great that leaders are acknowledging the selfless work that so many people here do just to help others."

The Active-Duty Volunteer of the Year award was bestowed to 1st Lt. Kayla McCarthy, with the 62nd Medical Brigade. McCarthy has focused her efforts on making positive contributions to the land on and around JBLM. She has worked with local nonprofit groups to offer gardening seminars at the JBLM community gardens and assisted with habitat restoration efforts with JBLM Fish and Wildlife. Beyond JBLM boundaries, McCarthy has volunteered with Pierce County and Thurston County conservation districts, as well as a list of nonprofits that includes Puget Sound Goat Rescue, Dancing Sprouts and De La Mesa Farms.

Greg Christian was named this year's Retiree Volunteer of the Year. Christian has helped coordinate numerous events over the past year that had hundreds to thousands of people in attendance, to include the 2022 JBLM Armed Forces Day events. Christian has also coordinated several in-person tours for groups including local at-risk youth.

Being presented with an award was also entirely a surprise to Christian.

"I had no idea," he said. "I got a call, and I was told to come by and that there would be a free lunch, so I thought ‘why not.' Then this happened. I don't really know what to say, but I do know that I'm very appreciative for all of this."

The Biehl family was named the JBLM Family of the Year for their combined efforts to support JBLM families. Together, the family contributed more than 1,000 hours visiting with service members and their families. They have organized hiking trips, hosted dinners and barbecues and provided support to families with special needs.

The JBLM Community Volunteer of the Year award went to Sgt. 1st Class Cathrine Schmid, with the 1st Multi-Domain Task Force. Schmid has dedicated her time advocating for the Department of Defense transgender community. Schmid has volunteered as the national board secretary for SPARTA, which supports inclusive military policies and provides peer support, while also volunteering with LAMBDA Legal, a national civil rights organization. In addition, she has also helped raise funds to support local food banks, youth ministries and veteran support organizations.

Five other Volunteers of Merit were also recognized during the banquet. Sue McNellis, Staff Sgt. Brenton Kirk, 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade; Donna Handoe, Sharon Berg and Donna Dahlstrom were all recognized for their personal contributions for the benefit of the JBLM community.

Col. Phil Lamb, JBLM commander, acknowledged the efforts of all the volunteers nominated for awards that day.

"There are so many people in this audience who deserve credit and recognition for what they do," Lamb said. "Thank you all for what you do, and thank you for inspiring so many others."

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