USASMA volunteers get back what they give
USASMA Public Affairs:
Volunteers play a key role in the success of many nonprofit organizations that rely on the dedication of individuals who want to make a difference. And the payback to individual lives touched by the selfless acts of volunteers sometimes has a way of circling back around. That was the case for three spouses of Soldiers currently assigned to the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy who received a huge “thank you” for their efforts to make a difference.
Leslie Burks, Donna Handoe and Monika Flom were recognized for their volunteerism in the Fort Bliss and El Paso community with Burks’ selection as the USASMA Volunteer of the Year, as well as a recipient of the Fort Bliss Outstanding Volunteer of the Year award. Handoe was selected as the Army Community Service, or ACS, Volunteer of the Year, and Flom was honored with an award for the Fort Bliss Outstanding Ambassador Volunteer. Their selections were indicative of their commitment as Army wives to practice an Army value both they and their Soldier husbands live every day: selfless service.
“I’ve been volunteering for 30 years,” said Handoe. “My parents were the ones who inspired me to start volunteering and it always makes me feel good to give back and help whenever I can.”
Flom’s volunteer award came as a total surprise given she dipped her toe into the volunteer pool for the first time when she and husband Brian came to the academy after his selection to attend the Sergeants Major Course.
“I worked full time and was the treasurer for my daughter’s high school volleyball team, but that was about it,” said Flom. “I distinctly remember sitting in a briefing when I got here and hearing a sergeant major talk about volunteering. After his inspirational words I knew I wanted to do something.”
Burks recalls Flom’s excitement and how driven she was after the briefing.
“In late August all the USASMA spouses came together, and I remember Monika was so adamant during our meeting,” said Burks. “I remember she said, ‘We have to pay it forward! We have to give it back!’ Her enthusiasm was so inspiring.”
Just like Flom, Burks said her previous ventures as a volunteer weren’t extensive but that she had been afforded an amazing opportunity to volunteer and simultaneously exercise her leadership skills to inspire others.
“When my husband was an E-6 and we were stationed at Fort Lewis, [Wash.,] I ran the Family Readiness Group for his unit,” she said. “As a former Soldier, I know the impact volunteers can have on a unit’s readiness and morale so I was very grateful to help in any way I could.”
All three women are part of a special academy family that is not only tightly knit but continually strives to make a difference in their own backyard. USASMA volunteers have frequently collectively come together and demonstrated their commitment to helping those in need. There was a walk-a-thon for an international instructor’s son diagnosed with a rare form of muscular dystrophy. There have been numerous food collections, toy drives and blood donations. It’s no surprise that the spirit of volunteerism inside the walls of USASMA spills out into the lives of so many others in the community.
“I met Efrain at Reynolds Home – a shelter for homeless women and children in El Paso,” said Flom. “Efrain was born with cerebral palsy, was nonverbal and confined to a wheelchair. Myself and others who spent time with him during a construction upgrade to Reynolds Home got to know Efrain pretty well.
“Even though he never spoke a word to me, I know he knew who I was by my voice and understood that everyone involved in the project truly cared. When he passed away in November it hit me hard,” Flom continued. “He is someone I will never forget and who inspires me to continue doing whatever I can to make a difference in this world.”
Burks, Handoe and Flom were honored during the Fort Bliss Annual Volunteer Awards Ceremony April 20 at the Centennial Banquet and Conference Center at East Fort Bliss.
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