Culture News

LMI Volunteer Spotlight Series, Part 2

April 7, 2022

LMI Staff

 

In celebration of National Volunteer Month, we are pleased to continue to recognize LMIers and the important work they are doing for their communities.

 

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Photo collage of LMI volunteers with text that reads "National Volunteer Month"
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Photo of Demetrius Roberts being sworn in as a CASA volunteer

Demetrius Roberts: Court Appointed Special Advocate

I have always volunteered for various causes, such as supporting sport events, Habitat for Humanity, and military volunteerism, and continue to find new opportunities to serve my community. Recently, I completed 35 hours of contact training to become a court appointed special advocate (CASA) volunteer for Arlington, VA. As described on the CASA VA Volunteer website: “CASA volunteers are members of the community who receive extensive education and training in order to advocate for abused and neglected children - who through no fault of their own - are thrust into juvenile and domestic relations court and often, into foster care."

I am passionate about this work because I was a foster kid myself and, through research performed while pursuing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility projects, I saw how this group is so marginalized and underrepresented, making me want to advocate for children going through the trauma of multiple family moves, abusive parental relations, or neglect issues.

Demetrius Roberts (continued)

This volunteerism is rewarding because I help the children, parents, and treatment teams gather as much information possible, acting as an outside pair of eyes, to offer the judge an objective recommendation based on interactions with all involved in the treatment and legal support for this child. This work advocates for the best interests of the child, whether through reunification with parents or termination of parental rights with placement in a loving, dedicated home. This opportunity is important to LMI and me because of its direct linkage to fulfilling my social responsibility in my community to reduce marginalization of this group. It is tough but extremely rewarding work, ensuring the success of children who have no say in their circumstances.

At the end of the day it is all advocating for the best interest of the child, whether it is reunification of their parents or termination of parental rights and placing that child in a loving dedicated home.  This volunteer opportunity is important to LMI, and me due to it being directly linked to fulfilling my social responsibility within my community to reduce marginalization of this group that needs as much help.  It is tough work, but it is extremely rewarding because it is ensuring the success of a child who had no say in their circumstances.

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Photo of Frank Reilly at a podium

Frank Reilly: Volunteer Master Gardener

I have been an LMI employee since 2007 but an active Master Gardener volunteer for Virginia Cooperative Extension since 1998. During my 20 years of volunteering, I’ve amassed more than 26,000 volunteer hours. I train other Master Gardeners and educate the public about water gardening, water management, firewise landscaping for wildfire protection, and other topics.

Recently, I combined my climate change work at LMI with my gardening experience to educate the public and Master Gardeners about the potential effects on gardens and landscapes, how to adapt to climate change risks, and how to use gardening to mitigate climate change. In the fall, I organized a panel for the International Master Gardener Conference attended by more than 1,000 international volunteers.

On April 7, 2022, I addressed the Master Gardeners of Kansas (Wyandotte County and Kansas City), presenting Climate Change and You, to highlight risks to gardeners and ways to adapt that can also mitigate climate change. I’m looking forward to presenting on this topic again to Customs and Border Protection.

— Frank Reilly

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Photos of Karen Jennings' volunteer activities in Uganda

Karen Jennings: Kaguma Education Center (KEC) - A Village of Hope

The non-profit I founded is called Kaguma Education Center (KEC) - A Village of Hope and our goal is to support and fund a primary school, purchase land, create self-sustainment opportunities, and to someday build a new modern school with real floors and walls and to provide my leadership skills and management techniques.

So many people who have served in the Military end up creating a life of service for themselves, always helping others, because life has been good to us.  I volunteer because I am a servant-leader and I enjoy mentoring and advancing the lives of young leaders as well as having an impact on a whole community. To give Hope to those who are in despair and education so they can change their future, is rewarding.

While in Iraq in 2007, as the Deputy Commander of the 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, I met a young man from Uganda who was our security guard. Later, after we all returned to our homes in our mother countries, we became friends on Facebook, following each other’s lives.  I first started by helping Adolf in the orphanage that he was working in, but when he shifted over to the school, I formed a group, with the core of them from my unit in Iraq and we formed a non-profit to support Adolf and his school and his community.

— Karen Jennings

Karen Jennings (continued)

At that time, our school supported nursery school and grades 1-3, so a student in that rural village in Kaguma, Uganda could only expect to get a 3rd grade education. Since 2018, we have rebuilt the nursery school and added a new nursery class.  We have also built and supported a new 4th, 5th, and 6th grade class.  In 2023, we will have our first 7th grade graduation from the 7th grade.  From there the students will go on to Secondary School.  When we started the non-profit, we had 167 students and are thrilled to be supporting 352 students, with books, uniforms and Hope.

I volunteer about 20 hours a week with this organization, so that I can do my best, to make a difference in these children’s lives, to give them a fighting chance in life. I also do it to help my friend Adolf who also has a servant heart.  We have so much and they have so little.  So much is expected of those who have been given so much. My work as the President of KEC-A Village of Hope includes leadership, construction management, knowledge management, project management, financial management, sanitation, collaboration, transparency, partnership development, medical, clothing, web development, photography, fundraising, etc…..What I like about this effort is that about 70% of the work includes stills that I have already learned during my 42 years in the workforce and 30% are completely new skills.  Some people enjoy keeping their minds sharp with games like Sudoku and Crossword puzzles, etc.  I enjoy learning new things, stretching my limits and my personal growth as a human being.

My husband and I just got back from Uganda on March 13th and we partnered with another non-profit that brought three essential solutions to us.  The first is that they committed to build a well for the community on our new school land in May 2023 with High School students from two schools in Tennessee. They also brought 84-day training and Real Men training to our school and a local secondary school.  The 84-day program was to teach girls ages 12-18 about self defense and how to take care of their personal feminine hygiene.   Without the right supplies, these girls could miss a total of 84 days of school throughout the year, so we helped them fundraise to bring the right supplies for these young ladies.  The Real Men training talked about the responsibilities of men and focused on how they should respect girls and women, by always doing the right thing. 

We also made bracelets, played soccer, made rabbit cages, visited classrooms, interviewed teachers and students, inspected the water situation, tested a water jug backpack to reduce the stress on the young children who carry water daily.  The children were wonderful, with full smiles, and they just wanted to touch us, give us high fives, and hold our hands. They were incredibly welcoming the whole time we were there.

On our last day, the whole community came out to thank us for purchasing the land (7.4+ acres) for the new school.  The children sang and danced and the parents wore their Sunday best.  It was a great day of celebration. We walked the land and it’s on a hillside overlooking another hillside and a series of mountains near the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  We call it the land of milk and honey because it is so beautiful and the land is so fertile. They are growing cabbage, maize, Irish potatoes, string beans and bananas on the land now and they want to build a fishpond, rabbit cages, chicken coops, and beehives as sources of sustainable income.  We look forward to building a new modern school and support facilities someday.

The work I do, the non-profit that I lead, is having a tremendous effect on the whole community.  Children are staying in school. Parents are volunteering and are proud of their student’s accomplishments. We are educating teachers and supporting their education and growth.  Young leaders are learning new skills and are being exposed to many new concepts.

This is not a one-person show. Our non-profit has 10 people, all specializing in their own special skills.  Half of them served together in the Army in Iraq and two more are family members.  We work on innovative ideas on how to support our school, aligning our mission focus with the UN Sustainable Goals.  We’ve partnered with three other school non-profits in Africa to learn about their lessons and to anticipate the future.  We’ve enjoyed the support of Facebook Fundraisers and support from LMI.  When we started our efforts, we only had one book for each classroom, but LMI helped us fund textbooks for every other student.  We have also supported the school with ten LMI computers. The books were a huge surprise for the students when they came back to school after their COVID recess.

We are always looking for new members and large and small companies to help us out with your time, special skills and commitment and always financial support!! To learn more about us, please contact me or check out our Website at: kecavillageofhope.org or our Facebook page at: KEC-A Village of Hope. Come help us make a difference.

 

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Photo of Monroe County Hoofbeats 4-H Competition Team

Krista Olson: Equines and STEM

The Monroe County Hoofbeats 4-H Competition Team participates in horse knowledge competitions in the Midwest region. The youth, ages 8–18 years old, have knowledge about horse judging and hippology. I have led the team for 8 years in curriculum on hippology, including anatomy, diseases, nutrition, tack, training, behavior, and safety. My background in biology and teaching has helped me to assist the youth in their journey to become strong competitors.

I draw great pleasure from seeing the kids apply their knowledge in competition but even more so with their own horses. They can assist parents and veterinarians with treatments and even diagnosis. The team members are growing into responsible horse owners. They're also well-spoken and well-traveled, advocating for themselves and their equine companions. The team has qualified to compete at the state level for hippology this month, and several members will continue their horse judging competition at the national level.

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A Hand Up logo with perishable and nonperishable food items

Laura Tyler: A Hand Up, Serving the Unhoused

My family and I established a non-profit, A Hand Up Support Services; we call it AHUSS.

We are a recognized 501(c)3 organization of all volunteers on a mission to serve and support the needs of the unhoused. My children and I have done this for a number of years. Until now our activities have been self-funded but our goal is to grow to do more; so, last fall we made it official. We have begun to accept tax deductible donations. We travel the DMV and our outings provide a hot home cooked meal, medical supply kits, items of daily need and survival gear to our unhoused neighbors. Twice a month we go out – we focus on providing assistance to those who are not part of an unhoused community (encampment). We also support economically disadvantaged children and youth with activities, school and positive recreational supplies.

We have a website where our efforts are shown in pictures and video. If you’re inclined, I invite you to check us out and if what we do is something you’d be interested in supporting, you can find us here: www.AHUSS.org  

Robert Cherry: Chairman of Awards Committee for Land of Lincoln chapter of American Society of Military Comptrollers

I volunteer as Chairman, Awards Committee for the Land of Lincoln (LOL) chapter of American Society of Military Comptrollers (ASMC) located at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. I am on the Consolidated Financial Support and Services (CFSS) contract with Program Analysis and Financial Management (TCJ8) at United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM). As Chairman, I ensure the annual awards program is conducted in accordance with rules and policies established by LOL as well as the National ASMC organization. More specifically, I produce several data calls requesting individual and team achievement award nominations, essay contest submissions, and nominations for chapter leader and corporate members. In addition, I recruit committee members who assist with evaluating and scoring nominations and submissions to determine chapter winners, and then submit all nominations and essays to National. I am also responsible for selecting and preparing appropriate recognition awards (plaques and certificates). Lastly, I officiate an award ceremony as part of the chapter’s annual Regional Professional Development Institute (RPDI) day.

Pictured:  Photo of me and Gladys Moy, the 2020/2021 Essay Contest chapter winner, I believe her expression sums it up nicely.

Robert Cherry (continued)

I volunteered for this responsibility years ago to help a friend who was chapter President at the time. As a matter of perspective, some organizations and people might feel that awards are a crucial morale element. Additionally, those who embrace awards as tangible evidence of their contribution/worth want an awards program that is timely, credible, and impartial. It's important work and program administration must reflect that. That is my personal goal to ensure timeliness, transparency, and credibility. It is rewarding to be part of the process that includes hard work, nomination, and award presentation.

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