DVIDS – News – BJACH Rehabilitation Department Volunteers Serving Local Community

FORT POLK, La. – Soldiers assigned to the Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital Rehabilitation Department participate in a community relations service project at the Helping Hands Ministries Storefront Feb. 25 in Leesville, La. Louisiana. The pantry is located less than 10 miles from the hospital and the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk. Every week, food is distributed to more than 100 families in need.

Rhonda Mann, director of Helping Hands Ministries Storefront, said volunteers are always welcome.

“The last Friday of every month is our busiest day,” she said. “If any soldiers at Fort Polk are interested in volunteering, they can call me at 337-424-6423. In addition to food distribution, we have clothing, furniture, and just about anything for help people in need.

Edwin Maldonado, known locally as Pops, is a Vietnam veteran and volunteers weekly at the pantry.

“It’s a big operation,” he said. “Having soldiers here today is a huge help.”

Theresa Brown, a US Army veteran and regular volunteer with Helping Hands, said the BJACH team was invaluable.

“We feed 100 to 125 people every Friday,” she said. “We receive donations from local businesses, grocery stores, the USDA food bank and the military.”

Brown said that without the help provided by the soldiers, his team would have had a lot more work to do.

“It’s very important to have the soldiers here today,” she said. “We have a very small number of dedicated volunteers. The majority of them are elderly, so the extra hands, help, and muscles are beneficial.

Staff Sgt. James Matteson, Occupational Therapy Specialist for BJACH, was impressed with the organization of the pantry and how quickly they were able to sort, pack and distribute food.

“I think it’s a good lesson for us. Volunteering and giving back to something bigger than ourselves is eye-opening,” he said. “As servicemen, we are often caught up in our day-to-day responsibilities and the mission of the military that we sometimes forget about the community as a whole. It’s a great way for us to remember that the strength of our nation lies in our community.

Once the rehabilitation team finished their work in the pantry, they sat down with Tommy Kiker, pastor of East Leesville Baptist Church, to reflect, discuss and find purpose in the service they she provided. He encouraged them to find meaning in everything they do personally and professionally.

“If you can find value in what you do every day and you’re in it for more than your paycheck, I believe every vocation can have a sense of calling,” he said. “Our professions must be worthy and useful. We have to believe in what we are doing, otherwise why are we doing it?

Kiker said his main goal is to help soldiers understand the value of the service they have provided during their volunteer efforts and to encourage them to find that value in their daily duties.

“You have been a blessing, not just to the people you gave food to, but to the volunteers,” he said. “Find the value in what you do. Knowing that you add value as a citizen and a member of this community is encouraging.”

Major Anthony Williams, Chief of Rehabilitation Services for BJACH hosted the event to introduce his Soldiers to community engagement opportunities, mentor his team on civic engagement and raise awareness of community resources available to those in need. .

“It was a great opportunity to get out of the office and do something different and beneficial to our community,” he said. “My intention was for my department to have several key takeaways: spiritual and social fitness, community outreach, and civic duty.”

Captain Christopher Julian, occupational therapist for BJACH, said it was an important thing to do.

“I never leave the post, but getting out and being part of the community today made me realize that Leesville is part of Fort Polk. It made you feel more connected to the community,” he said. “This community supports us, as soldiers it was important for me to see what is happening outside the gate and how I was able to hopefully make a difference.”

Julian said being a volunteer is a role and everyone should volunteer where and when they can.

Matteson said getting out and doing activities you normally never do are the building blocks to making life more meaningful.

“I started enjoying my time at Fort Polk more when I started volunteering at different locations with the BOSS program,” he said. “Events like today help me feel more connected to the community and have had a significant impact on my life.”

Date taken: 25.02.2022
Date posted: 03.01.2022 18:17
Story ID: 415559

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