PWD Volunteers off to quick start performing community service
FORT LEE — Driven by a lifelong passion for community service, Sergeant David Alex of the Petroleum and Water Department at Fort Lee recently started a volunteer group within his department. Since his idea came to light at the first of the year, one man quickly turned into 27 men eager to volunteer their time giving back to the local community.
To make the volunteer group possible, Alex went through the necessary steps of receiving permission from directors at Fort Lee and certification through Army Community Service. He then began passing out a sign-up roster and handing out information to soldiers within his division of the Petroleum and Water Department. A total of 27 soldiers joined Alex’s mission, and the group was given the name PWD Volunteers.
“He’s really dedicated a lot of time to this. It’s his idea, and he did all the research to start this organization,” said Myrick Lewis, chief instructor-writer and overseer of the volunteer group. “He had to get approval from the leadership at Fort Lee. He deserves a lot of credit for thinking of the idea and actually going through the process to make it happen.”
Although the volunteer group was just recently formed, the group has already committed time to various community projects. They have helped the staff at the Appomattox Regional Library in Hopewell with moving and relocating furniture, and they’ve volunteered at the Battlefield Nursing Home, conducting room visits and serving lunch to residents. Additionally, the soldiers have donated $200 worth of household items to help more than 80 families through the Ronald McDonald House Charities, a network that provides vital resources and compassionate care to sick children and their families being served by leading hospitals worldwide.
This past weekend, 16 of the soldiers withstood the rainy, cold weather to assist with the Commonwealth Timing Race in Midlothian. The soldiers manned the turnaround points, handed out fruit and helped with parking.
The volunteer group has also signed up to help with the Adopt-A-Highway initiative, which will involve the soldiers helping maintain a stretch of land by picking up trash along the highway. Alex also looks forward to the PWD Volunteers assisting with the Ronald McDonald House Charities’ Pig Festival coming up in April, when the soldiers will get to bartend and help paint pigs and auction them off to raise money for the foundation.
Lewis is thankful that Alex brought his idea to pass, noting that the volunteer work “keeps the soldiers engaged” and “builds camaraderie.”
“He keeps us engaged, and we just support what he does,” Lewis said. “It’s pretty good. It builds camaraderie, too, because we’re a part of something that’s bigger than us. We go out and we have a good time outside of our work. They see that human side of soldiers.”
He added,“It [also] changes stigmas, because there’s a lot of stigma out there about military people. If a soldier does something bad, it’s all over the news, but a lot of the good goes unnoticed. When they work with us, they see ‘OK, these guys are just like us, there’s nothing different about them,’ so I think it helps with the image of the Army as a whole.”
Alex’s passion for community service began at a young age, and he has done what he can to act on that passion wherever he goes. He has volunteered his personal time helping out in nursing homes and walking dogs at the Humane Society, among other things.
“I was homeless growing up. I didn’t have parents, so I’ve always wanted to give back,” Alex said. “I started by doing ‘hush bags,’ which are brown paper bags that I would give to the homeless in the area. And on Thanksgiving, I would go to McDonald’s and purchase like 30 to 40 hamburgers, fries and drinks and go donate them to the homeless. I just wanted to give back.”
Alex’s goals for the volunteer group include receiving the necessary permissions and certifications to reach out to soldiers in other units at Fort Lee. He hopes to enlist more soldiers willing to volunteer their time with the PWD Volunteers group, as well as find more community service activities. Additionally, he hopes to see the group receive the Volunteer Service Medal, which involves the accrual of 400 community service hours, and eventually receive the Presidential Volunteer Award, which would be given to the Petroleum and Water Department and would involve the performance of 500 hours as a group combined.
Kelsey Reichenberg may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 804-722-5109.