By Barbara Gersna
For the second year in a row, a 1st Theater Sustainment Command volunteer was named U. S. Army Central’s Volunteer of the Year in a ceremony held in Fort Knox, Kentucky, May 26.
Lt. Gen. Terry R. Ferrell, commanding general, U. S. Army Central, announced Mrs. Kristen Small as the 2020 ARCENT Volunteer of the Year Award remotely via videoconference from his headquarters at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.
“It’s becoming a recurring event, it seems, the ARCENT Volunteer of the Year is coming out of the 1st TSC again,” he said.
“Volunteers are putting other people first. They have families, many have full-time jobs, yet they are still finding ways to volunteer,” Ferrell added.
“She set the bar high for next year,” he said.
Col. Joseph R. Kurz, chief of staff, 1st TSC, physically presented the award to Small, while Maj. Gen. John P. Sullivan, commanding general, 1st TSC, congratulated her remotely via videoconference from the 1st TSC’s Operational Command Post at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. The presentation, spanning all three locations, was broadcast live and made available on Facebook.
Small was handed a trophy and a bouquet of flowers as Sullivan congratulated her, “We are extraordinarily grateful to our volunteers,” he said. “With so many competing activities in their own lives; in spite of that, they invest their time into our command.”
Sullivan highlighted two specific programs that he believed are very important for Soldiers and families in 1st TSC. As the Soldier and Family Readiness Group leader, Small volunteered many hours to these efforts. She donated a total of 1,185 recorded volunteer hours in 2020.
Small made over 30 phone calls each month to the families of deployed Soldiers and civilians as part of the SFRG Key Caller program. Small and the other members of SFRG collectively made more than 350 bi-monthly family connection calls to those not deployed.
She also helped provide masks and delivered groceries to high-risk family members during the first months of the COVID-19 lockdown.
Small volunteered with several other members of the SFRG in making Soldiers’ rooms ready for them when they returned to Fort Knox from deployment, to include creating personalized welcome home signs.
“It takes a lot of preparation and time, stocking Soldiers’ refrigerators, making their beds, and making their rooms a welcoming home,” Sullivan added.
Together with the SFRG, and United Service Organizations, Small also made 100 departure bags containing travel size toiletries, snacks, and resources for deploying Soldiers. Additionally, Small helped with deployment barbeques and deployment/redeployment ceremonies.
Small had no idea that she was receiving the award. “I was not expecting this at all,” she said.
She thanked her husband, children, and the rest of SFRG. “This is the first unit we’ve been assigned that already had an existing SFRG who reached out and asked for volunteers,” she said. “I was able to volunteer, because my three children aren’t in the house anymore and I have more time.”
“So, two years ago I jumped right in,” she said. “It started with volunteering to make popcorn to sell around the building as a fundraiser. I have enjoyed working with this great team of volunteers in the SFRG ever since.”
As leader and fundraising coordinator, Small hosted 10 SFRG meetings and many events, fundraisers, and socials. Some of these events included inviting and welcoming a new, three-star command on post and coordinating the annual 1st TSC Trunk-or-Treat event. During the pandemic, she organized a drive-through event where over 100 cars drove through the contactless trick-or-treat.
She also collected school supplies, non-perishable foods, and toys that were donated to those in need. She developed fundraisers from conception to completion. Together with the SFRG she hosted countless fundraisers selling popcorn and other snack cart items.
Small hosted cake auctions, chili cook-offs, brown bag lunches, and unit blanket and stuffed mascot fundraisers that raised more than $4,250 for the SFRG.
She also volunteered with the unit’s annual tree lighting ceremony by helping with Santa and Mrs. Claus and helping with other children’s activities.
Small participated in bi-monthly homemade dinners at the barracks for single Soldiers. Families brought a themed dinner or dessert to serve between 60-80 Soldiers. They have already shared wings-n-things, breakfast for dinner, pasta night, and recently coordinated with American Legion Riders from Post 113 in hosting a food truck night at the barracks.
Every Wednesday and Friday evening, Small volunteers up to five hours with the Women’s Auxiliary at American Legion Post 113 in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, as a walker at their Bingo nights. She sells pull tabs and assists checking winning numbers.
This volunteer activity is what led to Small coordinating the American Legion Riders of Post 113’s adoption of the 1st TSC. The Riders now volunteer at select 1st TSC events.
Small is a member of Fort Knox’s Spouses/Red Cross Club. She serves at the American Red Cross Warriors warehouse and food pantry where she sorts food and checks expiration dates, ensuring that the donated food is suitable for Soldiers, families, and veterans.
Small especially thanked her family. She said that her husband is very supportive of her volunteering. Small is married to Lt. Col. Mike M. Small, Jr., G2, 1st TSC.
The best part of volunteering for Small is seeing the appreciation from Soldiers and families. “I have enjoyed seeing how much the Soldiers appreciate barracks dinners,” she said. “I have met so many wonderful people volunteering.”
U.S. ARMY RESERVE
DEPT. OF DEFENSE
U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND
DEPT. OF HOMELAND SECURITY
BEST WARRIOR COMPETITION