In a world full of gaps, Carol Edlin, Carolyn Jones and Jeanne Ann Mullins are a bridge, linking Huntington District employees and their loved ones to much-needed and welcomed resources.
Over the course of a decade they have volunteered nearly 16,000 hours to help employees and their families better manage deployments to combat zones as well as natural disasters.
For their efforts, each was recently honored with the President's Volunteer Service Award, the nation’s premier volunteer award.
"In the beginning, volunteering was simply was about fulfilling an unmet need," said Mullins, who has worked with the district for more than 21 years.
By 2003, the United States had been deploying troops and public servants including Huntington District technical experts to combat zones. While troops could expect well-established deployment and family support programs, there wasn’t a similar program for district employees and families.
After consulting with advisers and developing processes inspired by the U.S. Army Family Readiness Group model, the Huntington Employee Assistance Resource Team (HEART) was born. Jones and Mullins were the co-chairs and Edlin was their most reliable and selfless teammate.
In a pre-social media world, before online technologies made it easy to connect with family and friends regardless of distance, HEART set up several video teleconference breakfasts, so wives, husbands, children and parents could see and talk to each other.
HEART has held various clothing drives, school supply drives, and even obtained briefcases for Afghan engineers working with USACE.
HEART collaborated with other organizations, including churches and schools, to obtain clothing, toiletries, and blankets for Wounded Warriors.
Edlin, Jones and Mullins endeavored to learn about Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to be better-equipped to provide support and friendship should any returning employee need some help.
"It was our mission every day to make sure every deployed employee, every family member was well taken care of while their loved one was serving. We truly care about these people," said Jones, who has worked for the district for more than 27 years.
HEART assists in the coordination and preparation of durable medical and power of attorney documents, American Red Cross emergency communications, and has provided families with love and support through crisis including natural disasters, deaths, and smaller inconveniences, such as when the family of a deployed civilian had a leaking roof after a terrible storm.
"We’re an organization full of engineers, maintenance mechanics and good people, so we knew we had employees who were willing and able to volunteer their time and experience to fix that roof," said Mulllins.
HEART organized a team and the leaky roof was fixed.
Among other activities befitting employees and their families, HEART sponsors a banquet for deployees and their guests, book drives and bake sales, always with the purpose of investing in people and helping them thrive.
HEART is not the trio’s only venture into serving others. Both Jones and Mullins served during Hurricane Katrina emergency response, and Edlin, a military spouse, has volunteered at nearly every military base in which she was a member of the community.
"There is no greater gift than to give your time, love, and friendship to those in need," said Edlin, a lake project assistant who also volunteers at a homeless shelter.
Recognizing and honoring volunteers sets a standard for service, encourages a sustained commitment to civic participation and inspires other to make service a central part of their lives, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service.
"Despite working full-time, nurturing their own families, and even volunteering at other organizations, Carolyn, Jeanne Ann and Carol have set a high standard for volunteer service at the district," said District Commander Col. Leon Parrott.