Airmen find way to pay it forward

  • Published
  • By Christina Carmen Crea
  • Northwest Guardian
Celebrating the second annual "Third Thursday in Thurston" Oct. 15, 184 Airmen from the Joint Base Lewis-McChord's 627th Air Base Group volunteered their time for a day of giving back to nine different organizations throughout Thurston County.

Colonel Will Phillips III, JBLM deputy commander and 627th ABG commander, said it was an opportunity for Airmen to give back to their local community.

"I've only been at JBLM for about 60 days, but I've already seen so many events where the community helps us out including the Wounded Warrior project and transitions events," Phillips said. "All of those events and many more for JBLM wouldn't be possible without the outside community. So it's great to give back and say thank you and provide our assistance back to them."

Last year, the Airmen put in about 1,600 hours of work, which equates to about $36,000, Phillips said.

"I love it -- it's so exciting to get out into the community, put our hands on something and give back," said Capt. Thomas Simmons, 627th ABG.

Chief Master Sergeant Kris Orcutt, 627th ABG superin- tendent, said she "wants the Airmen to understand the importance of working alongside the community."

"We are essentially the tax payers' money at work, so it's great to give back, and the Airmen truly enjoy doing work to helps others," Orcutt said. "Also, through this, Airmen get to know one another and supervisors get to spend one-on-one time with them, too -- and that's rare."

It was Master Sgt. Irene Williams, 627th ABG, second time volunteering, and she said she hopes they continue to do this every year.

"It's an awesome way for us to join together and get out into the community we live in," Williams said. "After my first year doing it last year, I decided I wanted to do it again because it's amazing to see the military community joining together and giving back."

Todd Anderson, the city of Tumwater's recreation manager, had his group of volunteers fix the ballparks in Tumwater's Pioneer Park.

"Whenever we have JBLM Airmen out here, they always have a positive attitude," Anderson said. "And they're really helping out the kids in this area because this is a widely used park. What would take us all winter to fix and repair, they can help us do in one day. We get a lot done."

Senior Airman Eva Lavoie, 627th ABG, volunteered at the Thurston County Food Bank. It was her second time volunteering at the event.

"It's great to give back to the community, and working at the food bank today is awesome because I know that what I'm doing will actually help real families right here in Thurston County," Lavoie said.

Joshua Cummings, Thurston County sustainability specialist and fair coordinator, said Thurston County is always looking for more ways to build partnerships with service members at JBLM.

"It's important to do that and it's always amazing to see the many faces of people from JBLM," Cummings said. "This is also helping bridge the gap between JBLM and Thurston County to make us feel more connected. It makes a difference."

All volunteers received complimentary Jimmy John's sandwiches delivered to their work sites and at the end of the day, everyone gathered at the Thurston County Fairgrounds Expo Center for a barbecue picnic.

Organizations the volunteers visited included: LOTT Clean Water Alliance; Waldorf School; For Heaven's Sake Animal Shelter; Thurston County Fairgrounds; City of Lacey Parks; City of Lacey Water Resources; City of Tumwater; Thurston County Food Bank and HomesFirst!