April 15–21 marks Volunteer Appreciation Week. Marine Corps volunteers are a special kind of volunteer; they already sacrifice a vast amount as members of the Marine Corps family, and choose to add more by giving their time and attention to others in need.
Volunteering can also help both Marines and their families be successful in their lives and careers. Volunteering can build leadership skills, which can help make the transition to civilian life easier. It can help with stress relief; contributing towards a personal cause that has deep meaning to you can help add purpose to your life.
We asked installations to highlight some of their favorite volunteers below. Although we’ve only highlighted a few here, Marine and Family programs acknowledges and thanks volunteers for their tireless efforts in building a stronger Corps.
Henderson Hall: SSgt Mildred Shines
SSgt Mildred Shines is a Maryland native with roots in Prince George’s County. She has served in the Marine Corps for almost 10 years and continues to excel in her academic and personal endeavors. Her recent promotion to SSgt reflects her dedication, commitment and perseverance towards excellence in achievement.
“She is determined and self-motivated,” added a colleague at her recent promotion. The same can be said about SSgt Shines’ work ethic as she mentors students at Long Branch Elementary. SSgt Shines has been a volunteer with the School Liaison Program at Henderson Hall for two consecutive years with Arlington Public Schools.
She began volunteering ardently as a high school student; ten years later, SSgt Shines continues to devote her leisure time to organizations such as Toys for Tots and Young Marines.
Her charisma resonates with the students at Long Branch as she combines humor and reading with her style of mentoring. SSgt Shines says, “Volunteering creates a lasting impact on the mentor and mentee. I try and maintain a peppy attitude by thinking that the kids are my family members.” SSgt Shines’ positive attitude and dedication are why she is remains a beloved favorite amongst the elementary students and a treasured volunteer with Henderson Hall.
MCAS Beaufort: Gemma Downard
MCAS Beaufort is teeming with exceptional spouses and Gemma Downard is one of the best.
Downard attended a L.I.N.K.S. Class in May of 2015 and without hesitation, decided to join the L.I.N.K.S. Team as a volunteer. Winning volunteers through the L.I.N.K.S. program is not new, but Gemma’s story is a little different; her spouse is a British Royal Airman.
MCAS Beaufort is the home to an F-35 training squadron which gives it the honor of hosting service members and their spouses from the United Kingdom. The L.I.N.K.S. program was honored to gain Gemma as a volunteer. Gemma took the program further, asking if she could create L.I.N.K.S. for British Families. She helped the MCFTB and L.I.N.K.S. program understand what it is like to be a British Spouse on a Marine Corps installation and the differences in services provided. Downard gave great insight on challenges experienced acclimating to the Marine Corps. Thanks to Downard, incoming British Royal Air Force, British Royal Navy personnel, and their families can take a L.I.N.K.S. for BRITS program during their Welcome Aboard Week.
Downard has also volunteered with L.I.N.K.S. over 150 hours and is now serving as a L.I.N.K.S. Mentor Manager. When deciding what section to facilitate, she commented that she would teach Separation & Deployment because it’s a part of military life we all can relate to, no matter the service.
Downard encompasses all that a volunteer should be; dedicated and dependable. Her experience with L.I.N.K.S. has fostered growth and learning, but has given MCAS Beaufort so much more. Thank you, Gemma, for all that you do!
MCLB Barstow: Jill Kovach
Marine Corps Logistics Base (MCLB) Barstow may be a small base, but it certainly has a big heart! The volunteers on base are an integral part of the community and provide invaluable help to those who need it most.
MCLB has outstanding volunteers like Jill Kovach, a Marine Corps spouse, who is an active volunteer with programs on base and in town. She is part of the unit’s Command Team and has been a Family Readiness Assistant since 2014. These duties mean she has organized countless meal trains and thoughtfully planned multiple baby showers for fellow spouses. Kovach has worked at the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society Thrift Shop, helped organize Thanksgiving dinner for the Single Marine Program, and participated on the Marine Corps Ball Planning Committee. Her assistance to Marine families has been exceptional.
In addition to her military-related volunteering, Jill makes time to volunteer with the Parent Teacher Organization at her sons’ school. “Volunteers are always needed and appreciated,” Kovach said. “I enjoy knowing that.”
Kovach’s creativity, positivity and willing attitude is infectious and has greatly boosted the morale of those around her. She was recently nominated for MCLB Barstow’s Volunteer of the Year. Kovach is inspiring, passionate, and always willing to lend a helping hand. She has touched the lives of so many people within the Marine Corps and in the greater community. Thank you, Jill, for all that you do for our MCLB families and community!
MCB Camp Butler, Okinawa
LCpl Robert Lane, part of the 3TSB LS Co and stationed in Okinawa, has over 800 volunteer hours for the year through PVSA. He has over 1,000-volunteer hours with the Navy Marine Relief Society where he served as the coupon lead, knitted baby blankets, and sorted coupons. He served over 500-hours with the USO keeping the center clean, open, and fun. He built and moved furniture, helped set up the USO Annual Color Run, and even was the Easter Bunny. Lane has over 300-hours served with the Single Marine Program (SMP).
Working with the SMP, Lane has completed beach cleanups and volunteered at the SMP Center working over weekends and holidays to ensure it would be available to SMP members. Lane worked over 60-hours at the Marine Thrift Shop. He also has over 50-hours with the MWHS1 ariri program serving pancakes to fellow Marines. Okinawa is lucky to have a volunteer who is so committed to his community.
MCAS Kaneohe Bay: Lisa Quintanilla
Quintanilla is the type of volunteer that everyone needs. She’s an extremely versatile and dynamic speaker. If you put her in the front of a classroom, the entire room is mesmerized by her words and stories and they will leave refreshed by her enthusiasm. Her “can-do” attitude is contagious and we see groups leave her trainings feeling as though they are prepared and ready for anything the Marine Corps and life can dish out.
Quintanilla started volunteering to stay active since she was headed back to school to work on her Masters in social work. Her skills in presenting and training were apparent from the beginning and she quickly became a key member of the L.I.N.K.S. program and Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS). Now, Quintanilla runs a full schedule of volunteer hours with NMCRS and L.I.N.K.S.
Quintanilla’s skill set is extensive, but her versatility and professionalism are where she really stands out. New material can be handed to Quintanilla and within hours she is prepared to brief. During that limited time period, she is able to internalize the content and dynamically express how the information impacts her audience. It is a truly exceptional skill. She also possesses an ease and relatability in front of her audience that makes her an amazing mentor and liaison. Quintanilla’s abilities have truly made a difference in our program at KBay and we are thankful for her spirit of volunteerism.
MCAS Kaneohe Bay: Chantal Labrie
Chantal Labrie can most certainly be described as brave, almost fearless. She is ready to jump head first into any new challenge and she is a true adventurer to the core. Labrie met and fell in love with her husband, a Marine, while they were both living in Saudi Arabia. She continues her love for travel today with trips including Colombia and back home to Canada.
Although Labrie’s bravery and love for travel comes naturally, her life as Marine Corps spouse has made it a necessity. During her first year of marriage, Labrie moved to Hawaii. She was pregnant and her husband was about to deploy, so she knew she needed to do something to get involved. Labrie took a L.I.N.K.S. class and realized this was where she needed to be. L.I.N.K.S. was her niche, a way to give back to her military community while benefiting from the interaction and comradery. This realization lead to her volunteering.
For Labrie, volunteering means that she has prepared herself with knowledge to assist Marines, other spouses, and family members. She reaches out personally to resource providers for clarification on programs, so that she has all the facts to share with others. Labrie has explored each resource available and has become a subject matter expert on every resource used by MCFTB.
Her knowledge led her to become the Family Readiness Advisor for her husband’s unit. Every day Labrie finds a way to give back, whether she is bringing meals to new moms or sharing information about childcare resources.
The best word to describe Labrie? Dedicated. During her second pregnancy, both the L.I.N.K.S. trainer and FRO billets for her unit were gapped. Without hesitation, Labrie expertly worked countless hours to keep unit spouses in the loop and support them in any way she could. That’s what we call a dedicated volunteer! We are truly lucky to have her and appreciate her dedication to volunteering in the Marine Corps community.
MCB Camp Lejeune
Staff Sergeant Lee has been in the Marine Corps 14 years and signed up for Travel and Adventure, which he has definitely accomplished. He has traveled the globe from San Diego, California, to Okinawa, Japan, to Iraq for two years, Kansas City, MO and currently Camp Lejeune, NC. SSgt Lee states, “I think I really started volunteering in late 2012. I felt that I needed to get into the community to socialize and of course make a difference. That's how I was raised as a kid: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” He also shared that he did not realize that he could receive recognition for his volunteerism. SSgt Lee said, “I found out about the President’s Volunteer Service Award and have been setting small monthly volunteer goals ever since. All though I don't volunteer for awards but to make a difference in the local community.”
In 2017, he has volunteered 300 hours and is well on his way to get over 500 hours so that he can achieve his volunteering goals. In 2016, he volunteered 513.5 hours and received the Gold President’s Volunteer Service Award from President Barrack Obama. The various organizations that SSgt Lee has helped over the years include Family Readiness Programs, Navy Petty Officer Association, Hospice Foundation, American Legion, Boy Scouts of America, Marine Thrift Shop and United Service Organization USO. He believes that volunteering is a great way to give back to others and mentor Marines so that they can also achieve what he has accomplished while volunteering.
Marine Corps Families are an integral part of our Corps. Our spouses and children play a vital role in mission success by serving alongside their Marine. We salute the resiliency, independence, and support, members of the Marine Corps community provide.
Trying to start the New Year off by doing something good? The perfect opportunity is right in your own backyard! January is National Mentoring Month and a time to lend skills and support to your local community.
Whether you’re single or a geographic bachelor, the Single Marine Program (SMP) provides a place to bond with other Marines while having fun and making a difference.