'Group 5-6' volunteers lend big hand at Boys & Girls Club
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 1, 2012 1:46 PM
Staff Sgt. James Ward of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base stands next to a display at the Boys & Girls Club expressing appreciation to him and "Group 5-6," the volunteers he enlisted to mentor youth and help with maintenance projects at the Royall Avenue site.
Marvin Ford recalls getting a call a few months ago from a man at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base who was interested in volunteering at the Boys & Girls Club.
Appreciative as always, Ford, the unit director at the Royall Avenue site, admits now that he was not prepared for just how much Staff Sgt. James Ward would contribute.
"Sgt. Ward had come up with the idea of giving back," Ford says now. "A couple in his group were past members of the Boys & Girls Club where they had come from."
Ford said he took several from the military group on a tour of the facility, where they took note of a few projects that required attention.
"They immediately went to work," Ford said. "They re-sanded and re-stained all the bookshelves to our learning center."
Since April, the volunteers have pitched in wherever needed -- refurbishing and upgrading computers, refurbishing a pool table at the center, repairing a fence.
"Group 5-6," a name reflecting the military pay table, E-5 and E-6, staff and tech sergeants, is comprised of NCOs, or non-commissioned officers.
Ward, treasurer of the group, said the idea of volunteering took root when he realized military volunteers were lacking at the Boys & Girls Club.
"Our mission is to provide leadership for the airmen and also community involvement," he said. "I made that my personal mission."
Their role is two-fold, he explained. In addition to the teams that do facilities improvement projects at the club, they also serve as mentors to the youth.
"We have about 117 active members," he said. "Since we started going out, we have gotten over 90 different volunteers from the base and have been able to accumulate almost 400 volunteer hours."
Group 5-6 has been very dedicated, Ford noted.
"The interaction from the group is amazing," he said. "Right away, the kids just latched on. Some of the kids don't have a true mother figure and grabbed onto the females (in the group) or don't have a father figure so latched onto them."
But it's the 28-year-old father of two that has been especially impressive, the director says.
Ward can be found at the club almost daily, with or without members of the group.
"Everywhere you need him to be, he's just been a God-sent blessing," Ford says. "He and his group. I give him more credit because he's here daily."
The staff sergeant simply has a way about him that earns respect from all ages, Ford said.
"Instead of suspending kids, he sort of serves as a disciplinarian right now," he said. "If they've gotten into some mischief, he puts them to work instead of sending them home. They respect him enough, they realize that they made a mistake; they chose their path.
"He motivates them. They show up with a smile on their face. Even though they know they have to perform a task, they're smiling."
Ward has definitely gone above and beyond, Ford said -- taking youth on field trips or to the pool, often on his own personal time.
"How does somebody so young be dedicated to all this volunteerism?" he asked. "He said, 'Sometimes things in life make life changes in you' ... All his free time is thinking about what he can for somebody else.
"He's an awesome individual. Anything you mention, he's out trying to get it. I could talk all day, because of all the things he does."
In some ways, he's as devoted as any staff member, Ford said.
"He's on time and he's the last one to leave," he said. "Even this (past) week, when he was on leave. Who takes their whole leave time and comes to the club and leaves at 5 o'clock?"