by Devin Fisher
More than 500 volunteers, equipped with rakes, paintbrushes, pruning shears and work gloves, united at Turkey Creek Ranch Saturday for Make A Difference Day, the national day of volunteering.
The volunteer force gave up Saturday morning to give the ranch a facelift. The crews removed about 100 cubic feet of dead timber (enough to fill 2.5 roll-off dumpsters) from the ranch’s creeks and irrigation ditches; filled 308 garbage bags with leaves, twigs and trash; used 21 gallons of paint to apply a fresh coat to more than a mile of fencing and several buildings in the main recreation area; and even mucked out 19 stables.
The more than 2,000 man-hours provided a much-needed workforce to bring Turkey Creek Ranch “back to beautiful,” said Stephanie Kowaluk, ranch manager. She said it would take her staff of five three months to match the accomplishments of Make A Difference Day.
“My (staff) just focused on the 30 acres (of the main recreation area), but they couldn’t work on the creek … couldn’t do the irrigation ditch. Our priority was to make sure the parks themselves look great.”
Turkey Creek Ranch is a 1,200-acre recreation facility located about 10 miles south of Fort Carson’s main gate on Highway 115. The ranch offers trail, pony and wagon rides; camping, picnicking, birthday packages and seasonal activities, such as the Pumpkin Patch which ended Sunday and drew about 1,700 visitors this year.
According to Joey Bautista, Army Community Service volunteer coordinator, about half of the workers were from the Mountain Post and the other half were from surrounding communities, to include U.S. Air Force Academy cadets, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Young Marines, families and individuals.
“This is just a great event, because you see the enthusiasm here, you see the Air Force cadets, you see Family members, community members spending time to do something good,” said Col. Robert F. McLaughlin, garrison commander. “Everybody is having fun making a difference.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel A. Dailey, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson senior enlisted leader, said the community’s support during the Turkey Creek Make
A Difference Day project is just one more example that supports the Mountain Post’s motto: “Best Hometown in the Army: Home of America’s Best.”
“The Best Hometown in the Army is not the Army’s boast, it’s the people’s boast,” he said. “This community is what has made (Fort Carson) the best Hometown in the Army and the home of America’s best, so in reality, it is literally everybody’s installation here … and Colorado Springs does a great job making (Fort Carson) part of the community; it really belongs to all of us.”
Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. James A. Kilpatrick echoed the sentiments.
“When people want to give up some
f their precious time to come out and do something to make a difference for our country, for our Soldiers, for our community … it is always a great thing,” Kilpatrick said, noting the event provided an opportunity to bring the community together.
Gabriel Herrera, a Fort Carson contractor and former Soldier who lives in the nearby Cheyenne Meadows community, joined the Fort Carson Cub Scout group at the event to “spend time with my grandson and help teach him some responsibility.”
His grandson, 9-year-old Marvin Loya, was all smiles as he worked beside his grandpa.
“I just like helping and there’s a lot of leaves … and I like raking leaves,” Marvin said.
About 150 Air Force Academy cadets were
scattered throughout the area making their presence known on Army turf just two weeks prior to the Army-Air Force game, set for Nov. 7 at the academy. The rival football game was far from their minds as they focused on the tasks at hand.
“They are still our brothers,” said Air Force Cadet 1st Class Ashley Lingston. “This is something nice to do for them while they’re (overseas) protecting our freedoms while we are in school.”
The Fort Carson community joined millions of Americans across the country doing volunteer projects to improve their neighborhoods during the annual Make A Difference Day, the largest community service effort in the nation rallying corporations, government leaders, charitable organizations and everyday Americans into action each year.
“At the end of the day, I hope people feel good about what they have done and go out and tell the next person what a wonderful time they had (here today) and how they felt when they left this place so they will come join us next year and make this thing even bigger,” Kilpatrick said.