Challenges, rewards wait for ODR volunteers

by Jay Proctor
U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern, Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation

Two volunteer trip leaders from Kaiserslautern Outdoor Recreation were recognized for their efforts during a recent awards ceremony held at Armstrong’s Club on Vogelweh.

Kristine Ratza and 2nd Lt. Delissa Ainsworth received Volunteer of the Quarter awards from Kaiserslautern Army Community Service. They were nominated the awards for their support of recent summer outdoor recreation programs. Their actions, plus a significant quantity of hours spent volunteering, made them stand out among their peers.

Ainsworth, a nurse at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, helped during many summer programs over the summer. “Volunteering with ODR is a great way for me to get familiar with the area and other community members while experiencing all that Europe has to offer,” Ainsworth said.

She led several day and weekend trips to locations around Europe, including  “The Climb,” a 12 leg hiking program that covered 200 kilometers during the summer season. That program challenged ODR, as it needed two trip leaders to provide vehicular support during one-way hikes.

During “The Climb,” Ainsworth was needed twice for each hike, said ODR staffer Shannon Vitarbo, who said she was grateful for Ainsworth’s assistance.

“Without a consistent volunteer we could not have made this program a success. We absolutely needed someone who would be there, rain or shine, for all 12 legs of this program,” Vitarbo said. “Delissa had to do each leg twice so we could scout the routes.” Next summer, ODR plans to offer the program again, training additional staff to support each trek, Vitarbo said.

During the ceremony, Ratza explained why she enjoys volunteering.
“I volunteer with ODR so that I can have new travel experiences and share what I know about Europe with people who might otherwise be intimidated by unfamiliar environments,” Ratza said. “Travel with ODR gets people out and about and offers an easy way to visit some great locations in Europe.”

Ratza also faced challenges during trips she led.  In Spain, thieves targeted her group in their hotel lobby, shedding a dark cloud over plans of kite surfing and sangria sipping. Ratza brought the robbery victims to a nearby Spanish police station, staying by their side to help communicate with the authorities and file necessary paperwork.

Police needed a description of the thieves. Ratza remembered seeing cameras in the hotel lobby and suggested they review recorded video. From that, police obtained images that would help convict the thieves, should they be apprehended.
Along with many other ODR volunteers, Ainsworth and Ratza are now eligible to receive the President’s Volunteer Service Award in March. Kaiserslautern ODR relies on volunteer trip leaders for many of its trips, said Steve Selvey, who oversees the programs.

“Our volunteers are some of our most important assets,” Selvey said. “Without our volunteers, we simply could not offer the diverse program we have. We are always on the lookout for mature and responsible adults to join the ranks of our volunteer corps.”

To find local volunteer opportunities, go to and search USAG Kaiserslautern under “volunteer tools.” Community members can create an account and apply online.