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Volunteers fill vital role on base, more needed to help base mission

Jim Gordon and Sweetie Scholz file filled prescriptions in the 72nd Medical Group’s Pharmacy drive-through area. Retired from a military and civil service Air Force career, Mr. Gordon says working with people has made his four years of volunteering rewarding. Ms. Scholz has volunteered in several places here for approximately 20 years and she agrees with Mr. Gordon. “I feel good when I leave,” she said. “If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here.” (Air Force photos by Margo Wright)

Jim Gordon and Sweetie Scholz file filled prescriptions in the 72nd Medical Group’s Pharmacy drive-through area. Retired from a military and civil service Air Force career, Mr. Gordon says working with people has made his four years of volunteering rewarding. Ms. Scholz has volunteered in several places here for approximately 20 years and she agrees with Mr. Gordon. “I feel good when I leave,” she said. “If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here.” (Air Force photos by Margo Wright)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- They often fly under the radar but without them, the mission at Tinker would be impossible. They regularly operate with little notoriety and perform their tasks with unheralded devotion -- fully aware that their greatest accomplishments are those done for others. Their presence saves the Air Force hundreds of thousands of dollars and these individuals carve a lasting mark in the wake of their altruism. They're the diverse corps of volunteers and, at Tinker, they're a vital commodity.

"There are things that happen here on base that couldn't happen without volunteers," said Lorna Fairchild, volunteer coordinator at the Tinker Airman and Family Readiness Center. "We have people who are truly committed to volunteerism and their community here."

With a number of balance sheets feeling the fiscal restraints, the need for volunteers has never been greater across base, Ms. Fairchild said. The number of volunteers has increased in recent years, but despite a cadre of devoted philanthropists, the need for more helping hands is ever present. There are myriad avenues for volunteering on base.

Jim Gordon spends about 17 hours each week in the 72nd Medical Group pharmacy. A retired Air Force master sergeant and civil servant, he first realized he could be of assistance while picking up a prescription four years ago.

"I saw how busy they were and asked them if they needed help," Mr. Gordon said. "They said they'd be giving me a call."

It was as simple as that. Now, some years later, Mr. Gordon still strives to give each pharmacy patron he assists a positive experience. He's one of 25 volunteers in the pharmacy and one of numerous individuals around base who are all working toward the same goal.

"I just try to give them a friendly face and someone cordial and help them with any problems they have," he said.

Because of the need for volunteers, below is a list of opportunities at Tinker, along with descriptions and points of contact.

Airmen's Attic -- Provides clothing to the families of E-6 Airmen and below. Volunteers needed to sort donations and assist patrons during duty hours. Contact: Airman and Family Readiness Center at 739-2747.

Victim Advocate -- Individuals needed to give advice to victims of sexual assault and other stressful circumstances. Volunteers trade on-call duty to assist those in need. Training provided for interested candidates. Contact the A&FRC at 739-2747.

Retiree Affairs Office -- Volunteers needed to assist in clerical duties in office-type environment. Contact: Charlie Lindley at 739-2795.

Key Spouse Program -- Volunteer spouses needed (one per squadron) to act as liaison between squadron leadership and other spouses. Attends meetings and disseminates information to help fellow spouses better cope with rigors of military life. One day training provided. Contact: Tech. Sgt. Jason Crosby at 739-2747.

Special Needs Program -- Volunteers needed for developing program that helps approximately 400 children on base with special needs. Volunteers help organize activities, assist in educating parents about special needs resources in the community and spend time with the kids. Volunteers also needed for the Aug. 14 Info Referral and Fun Fair event at the Youth Center. Volunteers will play games with kids, serve food and ensure parents learn about special needs resources in the community. Contact A&FRC at 739-2747.

KUDOS (Kids Understanding Deployment Operations) -- Individuals wanted for this one-day event designed to educate kids about deployments in a fun atmosphere. Volunteers will assist at learning stations to help ensure an educational environment. Event is Sept. 25 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at several locations on base. Contact: Tech. Sgt. Jason Crosby at 739-2747.

72nd Medical Group -- The Medical Group has need for a host of volunteers to assist in the pharmacy, education and training, clinics, medical records and dental departments. Contact: Chris Davis at 734-3030.

Youth Center -- Individuals wanted to assist in several programs for children, including sports and reading to kids, among others. Contact: Joy Shelly at 734-7866.

Thanksgiving and Christmas Baskets -- Volunteers needed to work in conjunction with Tinker 1st sergeants to collect donated food items and assemble food baskets around the holidays. Watch for notices before the holidays to volunteer.

Food Pantry -- Volunteers wanted to stock and organize food items during duty hours. Contact: A&FRC at 739-2747.

The A&FRC offers recommendations for off-base volunteer opportunities as well, including Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Habitat for Humanity and hospice care, among others. For more information, call the A&FRC at 739-2747.