Be the light: Local volunteers shine in dark times

  • Published
  • By Ms. Kelly Sanders
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

With passports gathering dust and social events a distant memory, some might be tempted to wallow in the boredom left by COVID-19. Instead of giving into despair, a group of local volunteers got to work making positive contributions to the Kaiserslautern Military Community.

“I don’t sit still for long periods of time,” chuckled Sammi Cosgrove, military spouse and community volunteer.

For someone who gets antsy without activity, COVID-19 restrictions can feel especially challenging. This wasn’t the case for Cosgrove and others who channeled their energy into things they could do—give back to the community. Cosgrove joined the KMC during summer 2019. As a newly married spouse, Ramstein Air Base is her first base and introduction into the military lifestyle. One of the first places she sought to explore was the Vogelweh Library, a place she speaks of fondly for its warm and welcoming staff.

Pre-COVID, Cosgrove, an educator, participated in weekly story and activity times and helped with shelving at the library. One of her favorite memories was watching kids take pride in their LEGO® creations during activity time at the library.

“The kids are given a category and have one hour to build. It is such a nice program because they are so excited to show off their work which goes on display for a month,” she said.

COVID-19 disassembled LEGO® activities, but story time continued in a virtual fashion.

“With COVID everything switched online, but many authors gave permissions to read aloud so I was still able to participate in story time,” Cosgrove said.   

Cosgrove expanded her volunteer efforts beyond the library. She is a Key Spouse Mentor, American Red Cross Volunteer and treasurer for the Ramstein Girl Scouts.

“Last month we did Project Gratitude and needed volunteers to just come together to put together 10,000 bags for service members,” she said. “We have opportunities that are always presenting themselves with new things.” 

Cosgrove praises the American Red Cross for having something for everyone and being flexible to those with limited time on their hands.

“If you are nervous about being exposed to someone that’s sick, the Red Cross has online opportunities where you can volunteer from home,” Cosgrove said. “There are lots of different ways to get involved no matter what your interest or safety concern. Volunteering is a nice way to give back to the community and help in a very challenging time. We all need a little goodness in the world!”

Laura Bernard, volunteer and seasoned military spouse, was involved with Key Spouse groups at previous bases and enjoys helping new spouses assimilate to military life. She arrived at Ramstein about the same time COVID-19 restrictions kicked off. She said that after a year at home she was ready to get out and help people again.
Bernard saw a post on Facebook requesting volunteers for the COVID-19 vaccine line through the American Red Cross. Volunteers help the 86th Medical Group more efficiently vaccinate patients by taking on administrative duties.

“It’s been exciting to see people sign up and get the vaccine, and also help calm some nerves,” Bernard said. “I want to help and do my part and do anything to get us on the road to more normal, so people can get out again.”

Bernard acknowledged that volunteering can be especially helpful for those who are naturally more introverted.  

“As a military family we’ve moved 10 times and moving to a new base can be intimidating,” Bernard said. “Volunteering is a great way to put yourself out there and help your community. Just taking that step in getting outside and meeting people is super helpful, especially now when spouse groups can’t get together for dinners or parties.”

Like Cosgrove, Bernard doesn’t want a lack of time to deter someone from looking into volunteer opportunities.

“Volunteering doesn’t have to be a full-time job, it can be an hour here or there,” Bernard said. “It’s a rewarding experience to give back to a military community that’s been there for us.”

COVID-19 has taken a lot from those of us who dreamed of an assignment in the KMC, but it can’t take your kindness, empathy or ability to make a difference.
April is National Volunteering Month, which makes it a perfect time to get out and give back. For more information, contact the Airman and Family Readiness Center’s Volunteer Coordinator at DSN 480-5100 or commercial 06371-47-5100.