By Brian Hill, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (October 26, 2023) — More than 600 service members, civilian employees and their families turned out with their rakes and trash bags — along with their running shoes — on a sunshine-filled Saturday morning at Army Community Service to help beautify the installation and support Fort Leonard Wood’s Make a Difference Day community service event.
A national observance celebrated on the fourth Saturday of October each year, the day is intended to help encourage civic volunteerism, said Fort Leonard Wood’s Army Volunteer Corps Program Manager Kristina Stump, who organized this year’s event.
“Giving back to your community is important,” Stump said, noting she has volunteered in her community in one form or another for 24 years. “You can make a difference in someone’s life, whether it’s by lending a helping hand or going out and helping to beautify your community — making Fort Leonard Wood a more loveable and enjoyable place.”
After meeting up bright and early at ACS, the volunteers had the chance to also participate in a 5k fun run and walk that began just across Replacement Avenue in the Main Exchange parking lot, to show support and solidarity with victims of domestic violence — October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
This year, Stump said the volunteers were assigned to some of the areas around the cantonment area, where people tend to congregate, including Bldg. 470, Davidson Fitness Center, the John B. Mahaffey Museum Complex, the chapels and some of the youth centers — and in line with domestic violence awareness, events took place throughout the morning at ACS as well, including purple pumpkin painting, as purple is the color associated with domestic violence awareness.
Stump said volunteerism can also be beneficial in other ways as well — it can help in building a resume or rounding out a college application.
“I work a lot with youth, and I always make sure they leave with a letter of hours completed,” she said. “They have a resume going out the door. How many 16 year olds do you see walk into a place with a resume?”
One of this year’s volunteers was Pfc. July Pineda, a unit supply specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 5th Engineer Battalion, who is also a member of Fort Leonard Wood’s Better Opportunities for Single Service members program.
Pineda, originally from Ecuador, said it’s “awesome to help” in the community.
“I have my friends with me,” she said. “They invited me to help, and it’s Saturday — I didn’t have anything to do, so I thought I could go do something. We can contribute to our community while getting to meet new people, who all have the same goal to help — and that’s awesome.”
About Fort Leonard Wood
Fort Leonard Wood is a thriving and prosperous installation that has evolved from a small basic training post 80 years ago to a premier Army Center of Excellence that trains nearly 80,000 military and civilians each year.
Fort Leonard Wood is home to the U.S Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and three U.S. Army schools: the U.S. Army Engineer School; U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School; and the U.S. Army Military Police School. In addition to training engineer, CBRN and military police specialties for the Army, Fort Leonard Wood also provides gender-integrated in-processing and Basic Combat Training for new Soldiers.
Fort Leonard Wood also hosts and trains with the largest Marine Corps Detachment and Air Force Squadron on any Army installation as well as a large Navy construction detachment.