FORT DRUM, NY (April 20, 2022) — The community of Fort Drum celebrated the hard work and dedication of its volunteers at the Volunteer of the Year awards ceremony on April 19 at the Commons.
“Our volunteers are trailblazers found throughout the community – both on and off duty – and include a wide variety of people,” said Dani Reed, Fort Drum Army Volunteer Corps program manager. “Military, civilians, retirees, spouses and youth freely volunteer their time and effort to provide services to many organizations and programs. All of their skills and accomplishments have improved soldier readiness and family support, which is very important and truly makes the Fort Drum community a better place to live and work.
The Fort Drum volunteer community logged 37,327 hours of service in the volunteer management information system during the past fiscal year. This equates to a monetary value of nearly $1.1 million, with the notional value of each volunteer hour estimated at $28.54.
Nominations for Volunteer of the Year were received from Fort Drum units and organizations and were separated into four categories for evaluation: Soldier and Family Readiness Groups, Large Community Groups, Small Community Groups, and young people.
Fort Drum Garrison Commander Col. James Zacchino Jr. applauded the selfless service not only of the award nominees, but also of the 3,356 registered volunteers who are active in the community. He said their contributions are an inspiration for all to emulate.
“Our volunteers proudly serve the military community and organizations in the Tri-County area such as churches, schools and fire stations,” he said. “To our volunteers, thank you for selflessly giving your valuable time and effort to a cause greater than yourself and asking for nothing in return. You are truly special and symbolize an incredibly awesome community.
Soldier and Family Readiness Group Nominees:
Casey Loeschen, Master Sgt. Dylan Clarke, Bria Fournier, Karie White, Jessica Fairchild, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Eric Martinez, Suzii Schreurs, Kaylee Tackett, Stacy Secrest, Mariah Stahl and Alexis Tyler.
Casey Loeschen was named Family Readiness Group Soldier and Volunteer of the Year. Loeschen logged 789 volunteer hours as the Soldier and Family Readiness Group leader for the 10th Mountain Division Band. In addition to streamlining administrative work, she organized team meetings, maintained social media pages, published weekly family newsletters, and attended all Headquarters Steering Committee and Headquarters Battalion meetings.
As a leader of SFRG, Loeschen has helped organize events such as Black River Trail scavenger hunts, financial education classes, coffee with spouses, Sip-and-Paint, Trunk-or-Treat and chili cook-offs.
Exuding pride in the SFRG program, she regularly sought out new volunteers and coordinated their training. She worked with the group command team to roll out the roll call several times a year to validate family readiness.
Loeschen also supported numerous fundraisers for Headquarters and the Headquarters Battalion, which included cooking and serving over 50 meals on four Motorpool Mondays. She worked closely with the Senior SFRG Advisor within the HHBN and defended the 10th Mountain Division (LI) at every opportunity.
Nominees from major community groups:
Jennifer Mapes and Kelly Ginder.
Jennifer Mapes was named Volunteer of the Year for a large community group. Her work with the Red Cross Volunteer Program for Fort Drum Medical Activities includes managing the onboarding of new volunteers and coordinating internship opportunities. Mapes also conducts an orientation to familiarize new volunteers with program rules, policies and procedures.
She has taken the initiative to introduce a new Red Cross comfort cart program at Fort Drum MEDDAC facilities, where passionate volunteers promote a “home experience” to customers navigating the Guthrie Ambulatory Health Care Clinic.
During the pandemic, Mapes supported after-hours COVID vaccination clinics and she worked with clinical partners to coordinate internships for students when the Red Cross DENTAC program ceased training due to COVID. -19.
Nominees for Small Community Groups:
Sierra Crites, Nicole Brooks, Emily Fitzgerald and Natalie Taylor-Amaro.
Emily Fitzgerald was named Volunteer of the Year for a small community group. She worked with the leadership team in 2020 to establish the local Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Professional Network (MSPN). Since its inception, the Fort Drum Section has developed a network of over 2,100 members.
Fitzgerald demonstrated excellent organizational skills, which were used as a model for other MSPN chapters. His passion for military spouse employment and the success of this chapter led Hiring our Heroes Headquarters to choose Fort Drum as the hub for the Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zones program. Bringing this to the North Country will help address and alleviate the issues of underemployment and unemployment faced by military spouses.
Fitzgerald selflessly serves the Fort Drum community by working with spouses to help them identify and achieve their professional goals.
Youth group nominees:
Skyla Dixon was named Youth Group Volunteer of the Year. For the past four years, Skyla has volunteered every third Saturday of the month at the Food Pantry at Feed the Vet Center. While helping to feed hundreds of local families, she proved herself to be a capable and reliable young volunteer for the Thousand Islands Warrant Officers Association.
As a Cadette Girl Scout, Skyla spent months organizing and collecting books for the “Read One, Leave One” campaign.
Her other volunteer work includes wrapping gifts for the Walker Cancer Center, donating to the Watertown Women’s and Children Shelter, and simply being a kind and generous influence as a student at Indian River Middle School.
Installation Volunteer of the Year:
Maj. Gen. Milford H. Beagle Jr., 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander, joins his wife Pam, and Command Sgt. Maj. Mario Terenas, 10th Mountain Division (LI) senior enlisted advisor, presenting the Volunteer of the Year award to Casey Loeschen.
“It was a little nerve-wracking, but I’m very grateful for this award,” Loeschen said. “I love helping the group and supporting HHBN.”
Loeschen had never volunteered with an SFRG before, but she took on the responsibility when the former chief’s family left Fort Drum in 2020.
“I loved it,” she said. “A lot of times I would get nervous because I wanted to do a lot of things perfectly, but everyone said they really enjoyed everything. It makes me happy knowing that I could help support soldiers and families.”
Lt. Col. Peter Young, commanding officer of HHBN, said he was proud to nominate Loeschen for the award.
“Casey was an integral part of the 10th Mountain Division Band and the HHBN team,” he said. “She communicated consistently with soldiers and families through multiple platforms, displayed a strong vision for the SFRG program, and demonstrated selfless service in all of her activities.”
To learn more about the Fort Drum Army Volunteer Corps, visit www.facebook.com/FortDrumArmyVolunteerCorps. A photo gallery of the awards ceremony is available at www.flickr.com/photos/drum10thmountain/albums/72177720298243569.