MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. --
With shifts toward community service and greater Marine participation, the station’s Single Marine Program recently reported a more than 500 percent increase in participation over the past eight months.
More than 2,900 Marines participated in SMP events since August 2009.
“We’ve had about 10 more people participate per day,” said Jude Crouch, SMP coordinator. “Rates have gradually increased.”
While the participation increased primarily for the program’s recreation events and trips, the number of Marines taking part in volunteer efforts through the program revealed new depths for its potential.
“Since August, Marines here have volunteered a total of 608 hours through the SMP,” said Crouch. “I think that comes from just making Marines aware of the volunteer opportunities. It demonstrates their attitudes, that they’re willing to sacrifice their personal time to help the community.”
In fact, the station’s SMP was named Volunteer of the Year by Yuma Elementary School District One on April 13.
“The SMP competed against 220 other volunteers to win,” said Dawne Lee, administrative assistant to the superintendent. “We looked at the nominations, then at the contributions they made. It was clear that the SMP was the winner by how much time they have given up to helping.”
The focus of the volunteers’ effort was Palmcroft Elementary School, where they helped run two track meets and an annual fall carnival, as well as read to children during the Read Across America event.
“The Marines have helped so much,” said Patrick Koppinger, Palmcroft’s principal. “I just hope we can continue to receive their support in the years to come.”
The SMP offers three to four volunteer opportunities in the local community per month for Marines to support.
“That puts us out in the community and shows the positive impact we can make,” Crouch said. “I’m really proud of the progress the Marines have made.”
The overall participation boost is attributed to the fact that Marines are more involved in the decisions of the program, choosing what it does and where it goes.
“It’s gone through a total overhaul,” said Lance Cpl. Lindsay Beaulieu, SMP council vice president. “Before, it was just about the rec center and getting it set up. There wasn’t as much focus on events or the Marines’ input.”
In August, the SMP restructured its meetings, giving more power to the program’s council comprised of Marines from all units on base.
“We put decisions back in the council’s hands. So now the SMP council has a say in everything the program does,” Crouch said.
The program is administered by Marine Corps Community Services personnel, who coordinate events.
“You guys tell us what you want to do and we try to make that happen,” Crouch said.
On April 12-16, unit representatives Cpl. Alexandra Aponte from Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 and Lance Cpl. Marvin Bolanos from Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13, along with Sgt. Maj. Terry Stanford, station sergeant major, attended the annual Joint Single Services Conference in New Orleans, where they met with other SMP chapters throughout the Corps.