FORT POLK — “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.” — Unknown
This simplistic quote sums up a few truths. First, there is no shame in asking for help when life gets overwhelming and there’s too much work for one person to do.
Second, when the first situation occurs, encourage people to assist by volunteering because everyone has the potential to lend a hand.
That spirit of volunteerism is alive and well at Fort Polk.
Soldiers and Family members step up on a daily basis to support events, organizations and each other with their time, expertise and hard work.
In fact, 526 men, women and youth put in more than 44,365 hours of service from March 2017 to March 2018, and their contribution was valued at more than $895,291, according to Tammy Summers, Installation Volunteer Office.
The Fort Polk Guardian spoke to a few of those volunteers:
Cpl. Devon Douglas, Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers president, said he wants to hone in and highlight community service because it’s the meat and potatoes of life.
“When you live in the South, you are supposed to make sweet tea, grow vegetables and care about your Family and those around you,” he said. “You do that by volunteering. I think it should almost be a way of life to give back to other people.”
Accomplishing that goal can manifest itself in many ways and volunteer opportunities come in all shapes and sizes from throughout the community, said Douglas.
“BOSS puts the word out they want to volunteer and organizations like local schools, the Boy Scouts, Fort Polk Spouses’ Club and more ask for help. We have also worked hard to develop strong partnerships on and off post with organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Army Community Service and Soul Soup — a community kitchen, 808 East First St., DeRidder,” said Douglas.
Douglas and his BOSS volunteers work at Soul Soup every Monday and Wednesday. There is a waiting list of people ready to help, he said.
“The folks we serve are so positive, no matter how tough their situation is, they joke around with us and make us laugh. It makes you admire their strength and feel good about helping them however we can,” he said. “The effect it has on our Soldiers is nothing but positive.”
Douglas said his Soldiers get “warm fuzzies” when they see the impact they can have.
“Children come there to eat and thank us for their meal. There was a lady one day that told me she was just trying to live paycheck to paycheck and this meal helps her out. That is a reward,” said Douglas.
Douglas believes that’s one reason BOSS membership is on the rise.
“Soldiers are responding in a positive way to new volunteer opportunities by not only participating but spreading the word about our efforts and that’s sparking interest in BOSS. I’ve had Soldiers come to my office and ask how they can get involved,” he said. “Our numbers are increasing and I believe volunteering is making the BOSS program grow as a whole.”
Army Community Service
Katie Davis, Army Community Service volunteer, is an accredited financial counselor who helps teach Fort Polk Soldiers and Families better money management skills.
“I volunteer in the financial readiness program. I help people with budgets, counseling, financial decisions and more. I also volunteer with Army Emergency Relief,” she said.
Davis said she loves volunteering and has done it most of her life. She looks to her family’s religious background as the focus of her need to give back, she said.
“I was always taught to volunteer. I started by teaching children in Sunday school and grew from there. I’ve been blessed that my husband provides for me and that allows me to volunteer as much as I do,” she said.
Davis was in the Navy and said she began learning about finances and numbers there and has continued to volunteer her knowledge. “I’ve made a lot of financial mistakes myself, so I like to try to help people avoid making those same mistakes,” she said.
She said volunteering isn’t as hard as people think.
“Some people are intimidated and wonder if they are good enough to volunteer. I think what they need to do is find something they are passionate about and give it a try. Even if they don’t know the ins and outs, there’s nothing like on-the-job training. Don’t let it stop you from helping,” said Davis.
Child and Youth Services
Sgt. Traven Caldwell, 519th Military Police Battalion, is a volunteer coach for Child and Youth Services who coaches tackle football, flag football and basketball.
“I love coaching. One of the things I try to teach my kids is the importance of education first, and then sports. The other thing is to have a good attitude because we aren’t going to win every game,” he said.
Caldwell said he wants to be a good role model.
“I had dreams of playing professional basketball. It didn’t work out, but that didn’t stop me from moving on and being successful in my life in other ways,” he said.
An example of how Caldwell tries to make a difference in his players’ lives showed when one of them was being bullied.
“He told me he was being bullied at school, so I got the team together and told them they needed to look out for each other on and off the court, like family. From that day on there were no issues at school because his teammates watched out for him and supported him,” he said.
Believing in what he does as a mentor, coach and volunteer brings him closer to his players, he said.
“I stay involved in these kids’ lives after the season is over. When they move on to other sports, I go cheer them on. I want to have a positive influence on them and that makes me feel good,” said Davis.
Davis said he encourages people to volunteer to coach.
“If you have time, do it. It’s been a life changing experience for me. Be someone else’s motivation and inspiration,” he said. “This is about more than getting an award or recognition, it’s about helping them play and learn that life is going to get hard but if they push through they will make it.”
Markleen Moussiagnac is a teen volunteer at Fort Polk’s Siegfried Youth Center, as well as the Boys and Girls Club 2018 Military Youth of the Year for Louisiana, and Keystone Club, a Boys and Girls Club teen program, president. When it comes to pitching in, Moussiagnac said she loves to help.
“I try to help out with programs and activities anywhere I can,” she said.
As Keystone president Moussiagnac tries to help adults around her, as well as mentor her fellow teens.
“I’m also part of the teen sponsorship program which helps teens new to their school and community feel more comfortable. I show them around and make sure they know where things are,” she said.
The assistance Moussiagnac provides makes her happy. She said she feels she is making a difference in someone’s life.
“I get excited and have a positive tingly feeling when I help someone out. It’s that effort to make something better that makes me joyful. Doing something good for others makes me feel good on the inside,” she said.