[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                     January 14, 2011

King observance speaker talks about community-service legacy

By Rob Schuette, Public Affairs Staff

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is noted not only for his role in improving justice and equality in the U.S., but also advocating service to improve the quality of life for Americans, said Brian Blahnik, the guest speaker at Fort McCoy’s Jan. 4 observance of King’s birthday.

PHOTO: Brian Blahnik, director of the Marshfield Clinic AmeriCorps, addresses members of the Fort McCoy community during a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. observance at the installation. Photo by Val Hyde
Brian Blahnik, director of the Marshfield Clinic AmeriCorps, addresses members of the Fort McCoy community during a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. observance at the installation. Blahnik spoke about how people can serve their communities and make them better. (Photo by Val Hyde)

Blahnik, director of the Marshfield Clinic AmeriCorps, said people should not think of the King holiday observance Jan. 17 as a day off, but as a day on to serve their fellow human beings.

Blahnik has served others throughout his life, including eight years in the Army National Guard, with two years of active duty serving in counter-drug operations.

Many people in the Fort McCoy community are familiar with Blahnik and his volunteer role in coordinating the Fox Valley Cadets, which host an obstacle course during the installation’s celebration of Armed Forces Day Open House. He said they will return in May.

“King died as he was on his way to go support the sanitation people and their service (in Memphis),” Blahnik said. King said, “‘Life’s most persistent and urgent questions is: What are you doing for others.’”

Volunteer efforts can range from a one-time activity to a long-term event. Blahnik said there are many opportunities for people in the Fort McCoy community and beyond to get involved.

One place is to assist 50,000 youth who have fallen through the cracks despite the best efforts of the schools. Volunteers can serve as role models or mentors and share their values and morals.

People in the Fort McCoy community can bring their knowledge of Army Values — Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage — to help make their volunteer efforts a success.

At Fort McCoy, the volunteer program falls under Army Community Service (ACS). Lorie Retzlaff is the ACS Army Volunteer Corps program manager. People who are interested in volunteering on Fort McCoy should call ACS at 608-388-3505 to learn about volunteer requirements and procedures.

In the Fort McCoy community, people can help volunteer to mentor ChalleNGe Academy cadets or help an Army Family, Blahnik said. Moving farther out into the communities are opportunities to serve meals at the Salvation Army, help with the Special Olympics or learn about the Great Rivers United Way programs or the Scenic Bluffs Red Cross disaster assistance.
Several websites also can provide useful information about volunteer opportunities, such as http://mlkday.gov and http://www.serve.gov, Blahnik said.

“Many agencies out there could use your help,” he said. “You bring experience and skills they can’t pay for. You can help these agencies become a power-projection platform and provide force-multiplier services.”

It’s estimated that each hour of volunteer work provides a benefit of $22 an hour, he said.

Blahnik learned about the power and value of community service at an early age. His volunteer efforts in middle school, high school and college have helped lead to his jobs, he said. People who serve make an impact and help improve their communities.

Baby boomers, especially, have needed skills and as retirement looms in the near future, time on their hands, to share their experience and skills. They had a plan to achieve a successful career and can implement those same planning skills to have a successful career as a volunteer, he said.

“Volunteering is like a job,” Blahnik said. “There are opportunities and challenges and great rewards and sadness.”
The next Fort McCoy ethnic observance, African-American History Month, will be Thursday, Feb. 3 from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at McCoy’s, building 1571. For more information, call the Equal Opportunity Adviser at 608-388-3246.

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