by Tanja Vass/Specially for Fort Leavenworth Lamp
Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of articles featuring some of the outstanding volunteers of Fort Leavenworth.
Fort Leavenworth Volunteer Recognition Ceremony at 10 a.m. April 18 at the Frontier Conference Center.
Retired Staff Sgt. Angela Keeling is a self-described jack of all trades, spending every spare moment in various ways to support and enrich the life of her family and community.
Keeling, who is fondly known as Eia, arrived at Fort Leavenworth in July and has become a trusted volunteer with a number of local community organizations.
Keeling Volunteers regularly with Post 56 Foreign War Veterans in Leavenworth, working in the kitchen Wednesday and Friday.
“I’m all about community,” says Keeling. “I’m retired (military), so I know how much I’ve been helped in the past, as well as what needs to be put into things.”
Keeling was recognized as VFW Post 56 Teacher of the Year 2022. Keeling is currently a substitute teacher in Unified School District 207 and previously worked as a special education teacher.
Keeling also helps coach the local youth sports team, regardless of whether or not he starts knowing the first thing about the sport. Knowing nothing about cheerleading, Keeling jumped right into coaching a group of kids aged nine to 12, using the opportunity to introduce kids to leadership roles and working together as an effective team.
“Kids learn how to be leaders,” he said. “They basically run the squad themselves after four weeks.”
Keeling has also spent a significant amount of time cultivating leadership skills and volunteer habits in children as a troop leader for her daughters in the Girl Scouts of America.
While this may seem like a fair share of community service, Keeling also makes substantial voluntary contributions with the Army Community Services.
“ACS, I think, takes up most of my time, just because I love what this organization stands for,” he says. “I love the fact that this is one of those Army programs that if we lose, we lose so many resources for our families.”
Reagan Sawyer, ACS specialist with Relocation Readiness, Mobilization and Deployment and ACS Loan Closet, said Keeling spent his volunteer time at ACS filling any roles he felt he needed help with.
“He was always looking to help lighten the load on all employees, whether it was making packages, copying, organizing events or working the front desk.”
Sawyer said one of Keeling’s most significant contributions to ACS was the monumental task of organizing the ACS Loan Cabinet.
“Loan cabinets — which are a tremendous asset to ACS, our service members, and their families — need reorganization as well as an audit. He jumped in enthusiastically to help do both. Its help saves you more than a week of work dedicated to just that one task.
Keeling said everything was “a complete mess” with regards to the borrowed cupboards before he led the task of inventorying and rearranging many of the kitchen utensils, bedding and other household items that ACS loaned families who had recently arrived in Fort Leavenworth.
“It takes me about four to five days to inventory, reorganize, rearrange, and notify an ACS staff member what items need to be pulled from his inventory,” says Keeling.
She spends most of the week counting plates, bowls, and coffee makers in an effort to help keep the loan cabinet functional and user-friendly.
The items he inventories are then sorted into loan kits, which are boxes filled with essential items that families tend to need while waiting for their household items to arrive. Depending on the move, that could mean one to four months, or longer, of waiting.
Keeling said there were only about five loan kits put up when he first started volunteering with ACS, but after the reorganization, that number easily quadrupled.
“(During the PCS season) almost every one of these boxes will disappear,” said Keeling, emphasizing the direct impact programs like the ACS Loan Cabinet have on the lives of service members and their families.
Sawyer credits volunteers like Keeling with keeping ACS functional and positive spaces.
“He really has one of the biggest hearts and is someone you just want to be around. Her positivity, smile and helpfulness energizes our staff and creates the environment people desire. Without volunteers like Ms. Keeling, we could not give so much to our wonderful Fort Leavenworth community.”
Keeling says volunteering goes beyond getting the job done.
“It’s not just about volunteering for the organization,” he says, “but about building a bond with who you are with because they trust you enough to accept your opinion. I just really like to fill my time to help other people.”