Volunteer Excellence Award honors those who give

by Rebecca Burylo
42nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

11/8/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala.  -- Maxwell continuously awards those like Ilse Mears who give back.

Mears was honored for her continuous service at the Volunteer Excellence Award luncheon Oct. 29 inside the Maxwell Event Center.

Specifically awarded to non-active military personnel, the Volunteer Excellence Award encourages retirees, military family members and civilian personnel to use their time to help others.

Mears, a retired military veteran, has been volunteering with the American Red Cross and the 42nd Medical Group Pharmacy for 23 years and enjoys connecting with those she serves.

"Anytime we moved, the best way to connect with and to get to know your community was to volunteer," Mears said. "I have met the nicest people when volunteering."

She has helped dispense more than 340,000 prescriptions to 39,000 beneficiaries annually while volunteering at the pharmacy. Mears also plays a key role in recruiting, training and leading new volunteers.

Currently overseeing 24 volunteers at the pharmacy, Mears has been able to save Maxwell $80,000 of manpower each year.

Her efforts to save the base money represent one area - cost savings - judges look at when selecting awardees.

Judges also consider community impact and innovation, according to Ruben Aguilar, who leads the Volunteer Program at the Airman and Family Readiness Center.

"Judges look at impact because not everyone has the same amount of time to give," Aguilar explained. "So we don't just concentrate on the number of hours served. We concentrate on impact."

This year, nominees included Shannon Crumpton, who volunteers at the Maxwell Fitness Center, and Diana Bain, Les Sliter and Gloria Simons who, like Mears, volunteer at the Maxwell clinic American Red Cross.

Together the nominees totaled 60 years of service and saved Maxwell more than $345,000, according to Col. Trent Edwards, 42nd Air Base Wing commander.

Edwards presented Mears and the other nominees with their awards and commended their efforts.

"Thank you for recognizing our volunteers," Edwards said. "Volunteerism is a very important part of who we are as a community. It is an important part of our service to our community and service to our nation."

Every hour someone gives can reap huge benefits for an organization. Volunteers do make a difference, according to Derrick Sanders, AFRC's Family Support branch chief.

"Simply put, we could not provide the level of support for programming and events that positively impact our base and local community without dedicated volunteers like the ones we recognized here today," Sanders said.

The award illustrates the numerous volunteer opportunities available on and off base.

Those interested in volunteering can contact Aguilar to become a part of the Volunteer Program. They will then receive updates on different base and community organizations in need of volunteers.

Aguilar encourages everyone to find their niche, whether it is working with children or animals or building homes for Habitat for Humanity.

"If people are interested in getting out there and volunteering, I'm the person to contact. If I don't have what they're interested in already on my agenda, it's something I can go out and look for," he said.

To volunteer, contact Aguilar at 953-2353.