By Ryn Gargulinski: CNJ Staff writer
National Volunteer Week honors those who help others
Clovis has more than 50 volunteer organizations — 20 under the umbrella of United Way of Eastern New Mexico — and dozens of other church, social, sports and veterans clubs. As diverse as their causes and backgrounds, they all have one thing in common — they are willing to help.
In honor of National Volunteer Appreciation Week, today through Saturday, the CNJ is profiling a few of the thousands of volunteers in Curry County.
1st Sgt. Geri Smith gives a hearty salute to her volunteering duties on the Cannon Air Force Base. With 17 years in the Air Force, this downtown Clovis resident was promoted more than a year ago and her new post includes active duty with the Friends of Cannon Families.
“Sergeants are constantly helping people,” Smith said. “This is more an extension of the duties than anything else.”
Friends of Cannon does not provide a sustenance fund. Rather it discreetly provides assistance for families in a pinch.
“Nobody needs to know about it and it spares the families public humiliation of not being able to make ends meet.”
Although she also assists in many other programs available around on the base, Smith finds her work with Friends especially gratifying.
“It is fulfilling to see the relief in their face,” said Smith, “from such a simple thing like a bag of groceries or a tank of gas.”
“I’m a sucker,” said Tonda Simmons as to why she volunteers as Cub master for her son’s Cub Scout troop. Joking aside, Simmons’ hard work for three years with the scouts has paid off. She credits the smooth sailing to the “wonderful leaders.”
Simmons herself was just “promoted” to Cub master this year.
Her duties include “making sure everything gets done that’s supposed to get done,” said this former Girl Scout who also volunteered for that organization when her daughter was involved. Simmons, a homemaker who lives in Clovis, puts in two full days a week assisting with Cub scout activities and events.
If you hear giggles from the Girl Scout tent or cackles from a Boy Scout camp, you just may be eavesdropping on a pack led by Kim Chambers. This versatile mother of four helps with girls, boys and the co-ed Adventure Crew, as well as volunteering for her church and sitting on a couple of committees.
“I have no idea how many hours I put in,” said Chambers, who lives on the edge of Clovis. “I just do it.”
Chambers, who was a Girl Scout up through the senior level, works a full-time position as a legal secretary. She also instills the volunteer ethics into her children, two of whom were Scout troop leaders themselves.
“The rewards are the enjoyment, the fun,” said Chambers, “and the knowledge that I’ve helped the girls and young men grow to become better citizens.”
Besides, she remains a kid at heart. “I’m not ready to grow up and give all this up,” she said.
For Chris Frazier, volunteering is in her bones. She works as the secretary-treasurer for Oasis, an organization that helps physically and sexually abused children. Frazier has a history of helping out the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and Little League.
Frazier first heard about Oasis when her friend Hank Baskett started it a decade ago — and she’s been a part of it ever since.
“No child should be abused,” Frazier said, adding Oasis works closely and well with local law enforcement. Frazier herself works best making signs for the organization’s golf outing, performing a variety of administrative tasks and sewing “quiltows” — pillows in which you can fold up and store a quilt — to raise funds for Oasis.
The full-time gig of this Clovis resident is bowling center manager on the Cannon Air Force Base.
Unlike some real-life siblings, Brandi Pett likes when her little sister tags along. As a Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteer, Pett visits with little sister Amber several days a week, in person and on the phone.
“We go to softball games, to Lubbock … I try to teach her at least one new thing every day,” said Pett, who works on the Cannon Air Force Base as a medical technician. She has thus far given lessons on food, fashions and using chopsticks.
“She’s getting into my style of clothes,” Pett said. With a small age gap, Amber relates well to Pett — and vice versa.
“People say she has done a 180 since I met her,” said Pett, who began working with the once-troubled teen last December. Amber has since gotten into less trouble with her probation officer, her grades have gone up, and she’s heading to a state competition with her singing, Pett said.
Pett also instills the importance of consequences.
“People say Clovis has no hope,” said Pett, “but by volunteering I can help make the community more livable.”
As a volunteer for Court Appointed Special Advocates, Beverly Grubbs also became an officer of the court. But no matter how lofty a title she may hold, for Grubbs it’s all about the children.
This nationwide organization represents abused and neglected children, with a caseload of 148 in Curry and Roosevelt counties alone.
“This is the best way we can speak for the children,” said Grubbs, a Portales resident. “Children were not put on this Earth to be abused.”
Grubbs, who initially underwent the intensive CASA training in 2002 but was unable to volunteer at the time, took the refresher course this year and got her first case this month. She is not sure how many hours she will devote to CASA, but she will be sure to fit it in among her duties as a substitute teacher and mother of four.
She is also sure about the rewards: “There is nothing as heartwarming as having a child come up to you afterwards to say ‘Thank you’ … and give you a big hug.”