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Volunteers honored for saving Fort Benning $2 million

After volunteering more than 1,000 hours last year to help soldiers and their families, retired Command Sgt. Maj. Sam Rhodes said Tuesday there is still more work to be done.

“If you call me, I’m coming,” Rhodes said Tuesday after receiving the 2014 Retiree Volunteer of the Year Award at Fort Benning. “The need is really great.”

Rhodes joined more than 100 soldiers, spouses, retired soldiers and other volunteers for recognition in a packed Derby Auditorium at McGinnis-Wickam Hall. Maj. Gen. H.R. McMaster, commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence, presented volunteers with a crystal and a certificate. Some top volunteers also received gift certificates, special parking on post and a trip to Florida.

Starla De Saussure, Army volunteer coordinator on post, said volunteers logged more than 101,468 service hours on the installation with a value of more than $2 million.

In addition to helping soldiers, De Saussure said, volunteers serve as coaches for soccer, basketball, football and other sports. They are active in teaching and working at Santa’s Castle to provide toys to military families at Christmas.

“Volunteers are very important to the organizations,” she said. “If we didn’t have volunteers, a lot of organizations and programs would not be able to function properly.”

Rhodes has been busy helping veterans since he retired in 2009 after 29 years of service. He founded the Warrior Outreach Inc., which includes a Horsemanship Program. He also serves as an adviser to House of Heroes, a nonprofit group that repairs the homes of military and police veterans.

So far this year, Rhodes said, he has volunteered about 300 hours by staying busy working on houses.

“We’ve got a house this weekend,” he said. “We’ve got 12 soldiers and family members coming out to do that home.”

The Volunteer of the Year Award went to Lynda Morgan, who not only supports the military but also civilian communities. She served as vice president of Santa’s Castle, raising money to buy toys for families in need.

The Volunteer Family of the Year was presented to the Crapo Family led by Lt. Col. Jeffrey Crapo of the 198th Infantry Brigade. The family of four raised money for Santa’s Castle and helped distribute toys to more than 300 families.

De Saussure said people should think about giving back to the community no matter how small the effort. “It has a significant impact if everybody took the time out to volunteer,” she said.

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