Service before self ... with a twist

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- A volunteer is someone who performs a service willingly and without pay. But anyone who has ever done any kind of volunteer work knows it means so much more. Perhaps that's why so far this year, Airmen, civilians, retirees and dependents from Seymour Johnson have contributed more than 30,000 volunteer hours to off-base programs. And that's only the hours that are recorded.

But just what would motivate someone who already works full time to spend even more time working and not get paid for it? Juanita Joseph, the base's volunteer program manager, has a simple explanation.

"Volunteering is the ultimate win/win proposition. It's good for the organization that the volunteers help and good for the volunteers as well," she explains. "It also fosters a great relationship between the two communities - the military and the off-base community."
Being assigned to a base like Seymour Johnson, where the Goldsboro and Wayne County communities give so much support, many of the base's volunteers feel it's only right to give something in return.

"It is good for the community," said Master Sgt. William Howard, 4th Mission Support Squadron. He and several other volunteers from the MSS recently worked a lunch shift at the Community Soup Kitchen. "It really gives you a sense of belonging in the community, and it feels good to give a little back."

If you calculate the value of the volunteer hours, Seymour Johnson, with its 30,000 plus hours this year, has given the local community the equivalent of more than $575,000. In 2005, volunteers contributed more than 47,000 hours with a monetary equivalent of more than $831,000.

Those hours were donated to all sorts of places.

"You can go almost any place off base and find some SJ men and women volunteering," Ms. Joseph said. "They are at the local Boys and Girls Club, Meals on Wheels, the Soup Kitchen, the schools and more."

That means that for each individual's particular preference, there is a volunteer preference to match it. For animal lovers, the Wayne County Humane Society offers volunteer opportunities ranging from taking photographs of adoptable animals to teaching humane education to local school children. For those with a knack for building things, or just a desire to try, Habitat for Humanity always needs help building houses. Sports fanatics are always needed to coach youth teams both on and off base. The list of possibilities is endless.

Some volunteer opportunities happen once every so often, while some are seasonal and still others happen every single day.

Regardless of the project, it all seems to come down to the community and serving them.

"It's so gratifying, giving back some of what the community gives us," said Senior Master Sgt. Mark Hosier, 4th Maintenance Group Weapons Standardization superintendent. All 16 Airmen from his shop braved the North Carolina heat all day Aug. 25 to build a Habitat for Humanity house. "Actually, we enjoy the feeling we get from volunteering so much we're going to start doing full-office volunteer projects on a quarterly basis."

To find out what opportunities exist, visit the Seymour Johnson Web site at www.seymourjohnson.af.mil, select the Airman and Family Readiness Center link on the right and scroll down to "information and referral /volunteer program." Another good resource is http://www.volunteersolutions.org/uwwc/volunteer/.