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Misawa Air Base's 35th Fighter Wing Vice Commander, Col. Don Weckhorst, thanks Master Sgt. Jamal S. Qaiyyim for his volunteerism at an awards luncheon last week. Qaiyyim developed and teaches courses for the Family Support Center and tutors at Cummings Elementary School, among other charitable work.
Misawa Air Base's 35th Fighter Wing Vice Commander, Col. Don Weckhorst, thanks Master Sgt. Jamal S. Qaiyyim for his volunteerism at an awards luncheon last week. Qaiyyim developed and teaches courses for the Family Support Center and tutors at Cummings Elementary School, among other charitable work. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)
Misawa Air Base's 35th Fighter Wing Vice Commander, Col. Don Weckhorst, thanks Master Sgt. Jamal S. Qaiyyim for his volunteerism at an awards luncheon last week. Qaiyyim developed and teaches courses for the Family Support Center and tutors at Cummings Elementary School, among other charitable work.
Misawa Air Base's 35th Fighter Wing Vice Commander, Col. Don Weckhorst, thanks Master Sgt. Jamal S. Qaiyyim for his volunteerism at an awards luncheon last week. Qaiyyim developed and teaches courses for the Family Support Center and tutors at Cummings Elementary School, among other charitable work. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)
Tonya Heath and husband, Senior Master Sgt. Mike Heath, were honored at a volunteers luncheon this week at Misawa Air Base, Japan. More than 600 volunteers donated 96,000 hours of their time last year, saving the command an estimated $1.59 million.
Tonya Heath and husband, Senior Master Sgt. Mike Heath, were honored at a volunteers luncheon this week at Misawa Air Base, Japan. More than 600 volunteers donated 96,000 hours of their time last year, saving the command an estimated $1.59 million. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — They tutor elementary school students, care for orphaned kittens, keep the Thrift Store open, teach computer classes and lead newcomer tours.

There are more than 600 volunteers at this base helping more than 30 base agencies stretch their budgets to offer more services to the Misawa community.

They were honored Thursday with a free luncheon at the Mutsu Officers’ Club and thanked for more than 96,000 hours of charitable work.

“Volunteers really create a home-away-from-home environment here at Misawa,” said Beverly Pineiro, Family Support Center community readiness technician.

“Not only does it give individuals a chance to be a part of the community, but they also provide programs that without their contribution, wouldn’t exist.”

Col. Don Weckhorst, 35th Fighter Wing’s Vice Commander, received a mock check for $1.59 million — the estimated amount volunteers saved the command last year. Pineiro said that figure comes from multiplying volunteer hours by $16.54 — a wage used by the Points of Light Foundation, an American nonprofit organization that promotes volunteerism.

Numerous volunteers were recognized Thursday but six were singled out for exceptional service, receiving the G.I.V.E. — Giving Individual Volunteer Effort — Award. They are:

• Senior Master Sgt. Mike Heath and wife Tonya earned the award as a couple for donating countless hours to Misawa’s Thrift Store and the Enlisted Community Organization. The parents of three turn hours given to charity into family time.

“We get to spend time with each other and still give back to the community,” said Mike Heath, a medical equipment repairman for the 35th Medical Group. “If we didn’t have enough people to volunteer, a lot of programs and opportunities wouldn’t be there for people.”

• Tech. Sgt. Krista Valentine has volunteered at the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), the base’s shelter for abandoned and stray cats and dogs, for a year. The 35th Communications Squadron photographer checks on the animals every other day, cleans kennels twice a week and sits on the board of directors. She volunteers simply because she loves animals.

“Right now I have three orphaned kittens I’m the surrogate mom to,” she said at Thursday’s luncheon. “I have to go feed them in an hour.”

• Military spouse Kristi McFadden said volunteering twice a week to lead the newcomers’ tour has been the highlight of her time at Misawa.

“I’ve gained some really valuable friends, an understanding of the area and a real sense of community,” she said.

Though pregnant when she and her husband, Jeramis, moved to Misawa two years ago, she signed up to be a tour guide because of her experience on her first tour.

“It really helped me feel excited about being here,” she said. “I really wanted to give that back to people so they would be excited about being here and not scared because it is daunting living in a foreign country.”

• Sherry Murchison developed a first-time homebuyers’ course and teaches, on average, 20 community members a month. She also volunteers at Robert D. Edgren High School and for the Misawa Officers Spouses Club.

• Master Sgt. Jamal S. Qaiyyim designed “Computers for Beginners” and “Home Theatre 101” for the Family Support Center and teaches each course once a month. He also volunteers for the Safe Haven/Noncombatant Evacuation operation exercises and for AFN as a broadcaster; he tutors kids at Cummings Elementary School and teaches guitar lessons.

Call DSN 226-4735 for more information about volunteer opportunities at Misawa or visit the Family Support Center.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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