By Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command
FORT HOOD, Texas — An Army Civilian employee here was honored in a small virtual ceremony as a Volunteer of the Year, selected by the Army Community Service’s Fort Hood Volunteer Corps.
Ms. Carla A. Anthony, an office manager at the U.S. Army Operational Test Command’s Operations and Plans office, received the award from OTC Commander Col. David W. Gardner.
Anthony spends an average of 18 volunteer hours each week organizing Family Readiness Group events for the unit.
“I volunteer because it brings me pleasure to see people happy,” she said. “If I can take a burden off of somebody else, even for a short while, it makes me happy.”
Gardner said during a year masked by the COVID-19 pandemic, Anthony’s volunteer efforts are more significant than usual.
“There’s so many accomplishments in this past year,” Gardner told Anthony. “And frankly, it’s not just this past year — you’ve been doing this a long time and you’ve had a huge impact every year since you’ve been at OTC, and certainly for about the last seven years.”
Gardner said Anthony’s efforts take care of all OTC members and listed events supporting the Family Readiness Group, to include ceramic classes, gardening tips by a master gardener, swimming, and providing food and drinks for spring and winter festivals.
“Who is working diligently to take care of the 750-or-so service members of OTC?” Gardner asked.
“Double that number when we’re talking about family; when we invite kids as well as spouses; now we’re talking about well over 1,000, 1,500, 2,000 family members and workforce that is all done through the goodness of your heart, and your willingness to volunteer, and we can’t thank you enough,” said Gardner.
The first volunteer experience Anthony remembers in life is picking up litter along a roadside her high school adopted.
“It was something fun to do, and after you did it, you looked at your work, and you were like, ‘Wow! We did that!’” she said.
“And when you came back to do it again, it was a matter of pride, because you’re helping out your community by beautifying it.”
To prepare for OTC’s 2019 50th Anniversary Holiday Ball, she organized producing an OTC 50th Anniversary Cookbook with unit member recipes, and while assembling a team of other volunteers, helped raise thousands of dollars during the year, which went back into unit functions.
Gardner lauded Anthony, saying, “She is working very diligently to ensure that if we are able to do it, we have a 2021 OTC holiday ball.”
A Navy Veteran, Anthony was a linguist who once could speak Russian, Portuguese, Korean, Italian, and Spanish fluently with a little German, but said she is most proficient in Spanish since leaving the service in 2003.
She said her best ever volunteer experience was with an orphanage while assigned to South Korea.
“We took the orphans around and showed them the Buddhist temples, and the history of Korea,” she said.
“For me, that was a profound experience because these kids … they didn’t ask for this life. It wasn’t their choice. And to take them out to show them their culture, and to show them that they are loved and that they are wanted was a beautiful experience.”
Anthony’s volunteerism rubs off, as her family can be seen at all OTC morale-boosting events.
From her husband Brian who plays Santa, and 16-year-old Kristina, who donates her allowances to little jars at convenience stores and buys gifts for the homeless, to even her youngest, Jasmyne, 14, who volunteers time working with animals, the Anthony family knows the significance of volunteering.
“At any event here at OTC, the kids are full-fledged,” said Anthony. “They know they’ll be playing an elf, or a bunny assistant, or they’ll be helping with cleanup, and setup. They know that when we come to these events that we’re giving back.”
During her almost 11 years at OTC, Anthony possesses a volunteer award certificate of some sort for each year.
Once, she made over 2,000 burritos for unit fundraisers, using her own funds and time.
People in the unit also look forward to the variety of cakes she bakes and decorates to sell to support the unit fund.
“I feel as a society, in order to better it, you have to provide the best that you can by putting your best foot forward, to help people, and I believe that’s why we are all here,” she said.
Hanging on her office wall, Anthony even has a certificate signed President George W. Bush for amassing over 4,000 volunteer hours.
Deep down, Anthony stumbles a bit trying to describe the emotions she has from volunteering.
“For OTC, volunteering period is — I feel I was put on Earth — I am here for a reason,” she said. “It is a passion of mine to help people. If I could help more, I would, but I can’t. There’s not enough of me sometimes.
“I want to see joy and tell people that I am here to help. If I can give you my last dime, I would.”
Anthony accepted her award and after thanking everyone who helped in her efforts, she left everyone with her favorite quote.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,” she said, quoting Mahatma Ghandi.
“I have found that I found my true self by volunteering.”