Volunteers are an indispensable asset in an overseas military community, even during the pandemic, according to U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz volunteer organizers.
Now, tracking volunteer hours has been made simpler thanks to a new website championed by the garrison’s FMWR team.
“All of the garrison organizations are on there, along with the volunteer opportunities within the organization,” said Tim Siebeneck, USAG Rheinland-Pfalz Army Community Service volunteer coordinator. “All volunteers should use this website if they are volunteering within an Army organization. It gives protections like workman’s compensatory protection.
“The volunteers are treated like they’re Army employees in that regard,” he added.
Volunteers using the previous system should have received instructions on how to manually claim and transfer data between sites from their organization point of contact or Soldier Family Readiness Support assistant.
Those interested in volunteering are encouraged to create an account at armyfamilywebportal.com. With an account, community members can research and apply for open listings within the garrison footprint.
Additionally, the free web-based tool serves as a transcript of volunteer services, allowing volunteers to easily track hours and activity through official record.
If a volunteer already has an AFWP account, nothing needs to be done. After logging into the modernized Volunteer Management Information System for the first time, the volunteer will be asked to fill out extra profile information.
The pandemic has not lessened the need for volunteers, according to Siebeneck.
“There have been less events, but more need for personal-level assistance,” he said.
As some types of volunteering efforts, Siebeneck cites the Family Readiness Group and other social activities like checking in with unit family members or teleworking co-workers.
“Pre-COVID, we may have needed more volunteers for things like MWR trips and outdoor recreation,” said Ryan Bloom, who volunteers to run the Army Family Web Portal website for the garrison. “Now, current COVID restrictions mean we need more post office and Red Cross volunteers for the intense influx of mail and extra support families need. Opportunities have simply moved to other groups or changed in format. I’m fully virtual, for example. People should broaden or rethink their search.”
Siebeneck said creating a new account will track volunteer hours, and show Army leadership where a lack of services exists.
“If you’re doing something very impactful, AFWP is a way ‘Big Army’ can account for your action and maybe resource it in the future so there’s actually staff,” Siebeneck said. “So, once you move away, there’s actually a continuation of the program.”
Bloom reflected on the many hours he spends as a volunteer and what those hours add to garrison mission effectiveness. “Volunteering allows me to continue learning and networking,” said Bloom. “I also love to be involved with others and help our community to function well. I’ve always liked being part of an organization, and Tim and others at ACS are wonderful to work with.”
If you have questions specific to volunteering at USAG Rheinland-Pfalz, call ACS at 0611-143-541-3024. If you have technical questions about the new volunteer website, call the centralized AFWP Help Desk.