Making a difference through volunteering

SAN ANGELO, Texas -- Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class David Brownlee packs meals that he and his team will deliver to the homes of those participating in the Meals for the Elderly program Aug. 12. (Courtesy photo/Whitney Haskell)

SAN ANGELO, Texas -- Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class David Brownlee packs meals that he and his team will deliver to the homes of those participating in the Meals for the Elderly program Aug. 12. (Courtesy photo/Whitney Haskell)

SAN ANGELO, Texas -- Meals for the Elderly volunteers Jenny Sakellariou (left) and Sylvia Lindenschmidt (right) helps a group of Navy volunteers pack meals for delivery Aug. 12.  (Courtesy photo/Whitney Haskell)

SAN ANGELO, Texas -- Meals for the Elderly volunteers Jenny Sakellariou (left) and Sylvia Lindenschmidt (right) helps a group of Navy volunteers pack meals for delivery Aug. 12. (Courtesy photo/Whitney Haskell)

SAN ANGELO, Texas -- From the left: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeffrey Block, Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Kelsey Brown and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Brandi Thomas are all volunteers for the Meals for the Elderly program.  (Courtesy photo/Whitney Haskell)

SAN ANGELO, Texas -- From the left: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeffrey Block, Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Kelsey Brown and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Brandi Thomas are all volunteers for the Meals for the Elderly program. (Courtesy photo/Whitney Haskell)

SAN ANGELO, Texas -- Merlie Smith, one of the Meals for the Elderly participants, receives her food from volunteer Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Stephanie Hauge Aug. 12. (Courtesy photo/Whitney Haskell)

SAN ANGELO, Texas -- Merlie Smith, one of the Meals for the Elderly participants, receives her food from volunteer Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Stephanie Hauge Aug. 12. (Courtesy photo/Whitney Haskell)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- As Winston Churchill once said, "we make a living by what we do, but we make a life by what we give." For many here, this statement rings true.

Joe Zapala, 312th Training Squadron Fire Instructor and Louis F. Garland Department of Defense Fire Academy facility manager, has seen many acts of selflessness and generosity during his time at Goodfellow.

He said one of his favorite things to see is service members intermingling with people in the community, seeing how much the community appreciates the military, and seeing the service members being thanked for their service and commitment.

"The people of San Angelo really appreciate the people of Goodfellow," Zapala said.

Zapala has been overseeing logistical support and coordinating volunteers for a variety of nonprofit organizations off-base since 1992, when he volunteered for the annual Festival on the Concho downtown, formerly called the Fiesta on the Concho. After witnessing his work ethic and dedication to the event, the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce asked Zapala to help out with other local events and nonprofit organizations.

Zapala now helps with the San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo, the San Angelo Drag Boat Races, Veterans Day Parade, Rodeo Parade, San Angelo Pops Concert, and he is a training officer for the Dove Creek Volunteer Fire Department.

"All of these events require over 100 volunteers," he said. "We had over 3,000 man hours last year for the rodeo alone."

He's quick to add that he gets a lot of help from the people he works with.

"It's a team effort by everyone involved," Zapala said. "A lot of the people from Goodfellow take the lead."

Danny Hebert, 312th Fire Instructor, is one of the people Zapala relies on to support these philanthropic initiatives.

In addition to being the Vice President of Habitat for Humanity, Hebert also helps with the Meals for the Elderly program, and volunteers to coach and referee sporting events downtown.

Hebert advises those who are considering volunteering to, "be a part of the community. Even if you may be leaving in a few years, be a part of the community and take pride in it."

To him, the memorable moments are seeing peoples' faces when he tells them Habitat for Humanity will help build them a home. He said the expression on their face is one of great relief.

"They don't have to worry about five of their family members sleeping in one room, and they now have a stable home for their children," Hebert said.

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class David Brownlee, 312th TRS Fire Instructor, is another person who Zapala looks to for help with different outreaches. He currently assists with DEFY (Drug Education for Youth), Meals for the Elderly and Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Zapala, Hebert and Brownlee all agree that there is no deficit of motivation at Goodfellow to help out and give back to the community.

"Once people start volunteering, they really enjoy it," Zapala said. "I've had guys who agreed to volunteer for three hours and end up working the whole weekend because they like the work."

The issue, however, is not a lack of heart, but rather a lack of information.

At times, it can be difficult for people to find and hear about volunteering opportunities. Who should they talk to? What options are available? What's the process like?

This is where Pamela Flemions, a Community Readiness Consultant at the Airman and Family Readiness Center, can help.

Flemions assists those who are interested in volunteering in finding an area where they can utilize their skill sets and are passionate about.

Flemions said there are about 120 off-base volunteer opportunities; some are short-term, some are continuous, and some just need help with a single event.

There are plenty of on-base options as well. SAMS Place, Outdoor Recreation, the medical group, the library, public affairs, family support, child development center, and the housing referral office, are all organizations that are often in need of volunteers.

Flemions said although people may not be able to work in the capacity they hope to, or with the organization of their choosing, it's important that volunteers remain open-minded because in the end they are still able to give service.

It's common for Flemions to meet with someone who wants to volunteer to keep his resume consistent too. Many spouses have difficulty finding a job if they are only expecting to be here for a short period of time.

"This is often when people will look into volunteering," she said. "Volunteering can do a lot of things for you: it can help you hone your skills or acquire new skills. It can be a source of networking. It can allow you to learn more about a specific field. You will still be able to walk away with a lot."

In addition to gaining new skills and strengthening old ones, those who volunteer are also eligible for various awards that aim to recognize volunteers who have given back to the community and encouraged others to engage in civic participation. Recipients of the President's Volunteer Service Award, for example, receive a lapel pin and a certificate signed by the President of the United States.

To see current volunteering opportunities, check out the Airman and Family Readiness Center webpage, www.familysupportgoodfellow.org, the volunteer section in the Goodfellow Monitor News Briefs, the Goodfellow Air Force Base webpage Volunteer Wire,www.goodfellow.af.mil.

In addition, the Air Force Aid Society offers paid child care for those who are interested in volunteering and have children. Spouses of active duty Air Force members who volunteer at most base agencies are eligible; exclusions include organizations that make a profit.

In addition to strengthening ties with the community of San Angelo and improving skill sets, volunteering allows people to really make a difference, and can open doors to many other opportunities.

For additional information and to discuss current volunteering opportunities, call the Airman and Family Readiness Center at (325) 654-3893.