LOS ANGELES – Year’s end is often a time to reflect on events of the preceding year, spend time with family and friends, and look toward the future. It presents opportunities to be thankful for what we have and to help others who may be less fortunate.
To that end, Col. Kim Colloton, commander of the Corps’ Los Angeles District, gathered 21 Soldiers from as far as Fort Irwin, Palmdale and Las Vegas just before Veterans Day to put those ideals into action.
“The contributions that don’t cost, that just mean time, teach us all a lot,” Colloton said.
The contribution of time to which Colloton referred was a day spent in Cypress, California, with Habitat for Humanity of Orange County, where they framed out several townhomes, some of which will go to military veterans. It allowed the NCOs and officers to saw wood, swing hammers and offer help in a manner different from their normal work routines.
“One of the benefits of activities like this is that we all know we learned a lot, both in technical development and personal development,” Colloton said.
The construction work came about through a conversation between Colloton and retired Brig. Gen. Larry Davis, former Los Angeles District and South Pacific Division commander, who now volunteers as a construction supervisor for Habitat. He said Colloton approached him with a desire to “take the day as an opportunity to give back to the community, as a day to honor veterans.”
The construction effort accomplished both goals.
“This is an opportunity to do two things,” said Maj. Dennis Sugrue, the District’s deputy commander. “One is to bring together all the officers and NCOs in the district in community service, so we are serving others. Another is that two of these 15 homes will go to veterans. So it’s especially appropriate on Veterans Day weekend, for us to get together out here building homes for folks who need a hand up.”
Sugrue spoke about the benefits of volunteering, saying, “For the community, it’s huge. Giving to somebody when there is no direct benefit, I’m talking about monetary or time or special favor, volunteering is a cornerstone in any community. Whether that’s through coaching little league sports or volunteering at the school or a program like this.”
Mike Korando, senior vice president for site acquisition, design and construction for Habitat for Humanity of Orange County, said the organization is on pace to build 20 units this year, up from their average of five. Each unit costs about $300,000, approximately $100,000 for the structure, with other site work, amenities, landscaping and offsite work making up the balance.
“This will be our highest grossing year in number of units, and it certainly has been a challenge for us,” Korando said. “I want to say ‘Thank you’ to the group that’s out here today. Without people who come and swing hammers and run shovels and things like that, we can’t make it work for low income families in Orange County. We appreciate the effort and the input from volunteer groups like this.”
Davis spoke of the benefits volunteering can have on both the providers and the recipients.
“The value of this organization,” Davis said of Habitat, “is it gives people who are struggling to make ends meet but are hard working, good quality families, a chance to improve their lot in life, to improve the way they live. It has a great sense of giving back.”
“I’ve always liked being in charge,” he said. “But instead of being in charge of 2,000 people, I’m in charge of a crew of five, and I’ve never been happier in my life.”
Colloton echoed the sentiment of giving, whether it is spending time and energy being personally involved with a favorite activity or charity, by donating money or goods to a worthwhile cause. She said now is a good time of year to help because of the opportunity to contribute to the Combined Federal Campaign.
“There are many ways you can give and you can choose whatever you want, so find something that speaks to you,” Colloton said, “There are a lot of organizations that can use your support. So in the spirit of CFC, try and give.”