Volunteer Opportunities Give Spouses New Skills – Fort Carson Mountaineer
“Volunteering is a great way to gain experience, learn new skills and for some spouses looking to change careers, volunteering is a good start.”
By Eric E. Parris
Fort Carson Public Affairs Office
FORT CARSON, Colo. — Volunteer opportunities abound in Fort Carson and local communities. Whether at Evans Army Community Hospital with the American Red Cross, at Fort Carson Youth Services or in any of the directorates, there is no shortage of vacancies.
And many of those volunteer positions are filled by military spouses.
When service members move from their former duty station to Fort Carson, in some cases their spouses are looking for employment opportunities, and volunteering can provide them with the necessary experience while helping them hone their job skills.
“Military spouses find it a bit difficult to pursue their careers,” said Celsa Day, Fort Carson Army Volunteer Corps program manager. “They feel they need to hone their skills. We have spouses who have exceptional skills; however, they don’t want to lose them.
A good place to start finding the right volunteer opportunity is to attend the new Volunteer Orientation Training which takes place the last Wednesday of each month from 1:30-3:00 p.m. at the 1201 Community Services Building ‘army.
“The training covers what is expected of them as volunteers, what their rights are, Army regulations and what are the expectations at volunteer sites,” Day said. “They are encouraged to bring laptops as they receive instruction and hands-on experience with the Volunteer Management Information System.”
New volunteers learn how to use VMIS, including how to apply for a position, enter their volunteer hours, and how to find their service record. Volunteers are required to register in VMIS.
The final part of the training is for organizational touchpoints who want to access VMIS to manage their volunteers, certify their hours, and accept volunteer applications.
“I don’t want a volunteer to be able to enter hours and lose them because they didn’t know there was a tracking system,” Day said.
Volunteers can use these hours on their CV, which can be helpful when deciding to research job opportunities.
“Volunteers should treat volunteering like a job because it helps prepare them for future employment,” Day said.
Volunteering can show work experience that is important to employers.
“Employers will see that you were dedicated to something and performing a function for an organization,” said Nicole Mendoza, Fort Carson’s employment readiness program manager. “Volunteering is a great way to gain experience, learn new skills and for some spouses looking to change careers, volunteering is a good start.”
With the Army Volunteer Corps and ERP being part of the ACS, there is a link between volunteering and closing the gap to eventual employment.
“There’s such a natural relationship and partnership between pre-employment and the army volunteer corps that’s missed,” Day said.
For spouses who want to work, some have volunteered, and others still want to volunteer. And that’s when the volunteer corps and the Job Readiness Program work together to provide spousal support.
“We definitely refer between our programs,” Mendoza said. “We always ask spouses when we make a first intake if they are interested in volunteer opportunities.”
Volunteers serve in stationed organizations such as the Red Cross, Soldier and Family Readiness Groups, ACS, Grant Library, and Child Youth Services. In the local community, they serve with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Care and Share Food Bank, Silver Key Senior Services, Humane Society, and other nonprofit organizations.
For Stephanie Burns, who is a military spouse and has been volunteering since mid-April in the volunteer corps program, it was a good experience.
“It’s the gratitude I get, and the people I’ve met have been amazing,” Burns said.
Burns worked as Day’s assistant, where she scheduled appointments, provided support at events, and worked with clients who needed help with VMIS and provided them with information about volunteer opportunities. .
“Ms. Celsie taught me so much and I’m so grateful for that,” Burns said of Day’s support during her volunteer time.
Currently, there are over 6,000 registered volunteers.
And from Jan. 1 to July 2022, volunteers donated 30,500 hours, which equates to $913,475 in saved labor costs for the installation, Day said.
Burns said her volunteer experience opened the door for her to programs as a military spouse that she was unaware of.
“In the financial readiness program — to build our resumes, which is what I’m currently working on,” Burns said. “There are grants we can apply for for the school, which I did.”
Burns, who is preparing to move for her husband’s upcoming posting in Northern California, encouraged spouses to consider volunteering a try.
“I would say take the risk because honestly when you volunteer you have this family that you make with the people you volunteer with,” Burns said. “You become close, you become friends and you can hang out.”
Volunteering is about giving back, preparing for the future and having that sense of community.
“It gives all spouses a sense of community,” Day said. “Preparation meets opportunity. For military spouses, project where you want to be in five years and what steps you need to take to get there.