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Why I Help - Mary Williams, American Red Cross Marine Corps Base Camp LeJeune, North Carolina

Mary Williams is a true believer in helping others out, and she has a special soft spot for working for our military troops. So it comes as little surprise to find that she is the immediate past Assistant Station Manager for the American Red Cross Marine Corps Base (MCB) at Camp LeJeune in North Carolina. But, it may surprise a few to learn that she actively taught and passed on "the volunteering spirit" to her granddaughter, Swaan Oxendine.

Oxendine, who has been volunteering her summers with her grandmother since middle school, will be starting Georgia Military College soon. About this, Williams thoughtfully remarked, "I think Swaan will volunteer throughout her career because the importance of giving back has been instilled in her, and she really likes it (to give to others)."

Many may ask: How do you instill a "volunteering spirit" in others? The answer is fairly simple. Give someone the opportunity and motivation to help others, and the volunteer spirit within him/her will do the rest. Each summer, Williams would take on a volunteer project to help others, and she'd bring her granddaughter to help too. This happened so often that Williams' "give-to-others spirit was naturally handed down to her granddaughter.

During Hurricane Katrina, Williams volunteered to conduct disaster training to other volunteers. Oxendine was also there to eagerly lend a helping hand and do many tasks that had to be done. Though Oxendine often helped Williams out by working in the pharmacy at MCB Camp LeJeune, Oxendine participated in lots of field work too.

More specifically, in 2009, Williams and granddaughter, Swaan, helped care for 300 residents of an assisted living community who had lost their apartments when a gas leak devastated their complex. "I had to coordinate all the food to make sure everyone had three meals (an everyday occurrence) and Swaan helped to serve. She’s very sociable so she loved talking with all the people," Williams said proudly.

As an Assistant Station Manager at MCB Camp LeJeune, Williams spent a great deal of time making sure that military members stationed overseas could communicate to their loved ones at home in the states. The communication could be about anything, such as discussing a new home purchase, talking about college loans, or getting crucial information about loved ones.

"I started working full-time for the American Red Cross because I wanted to do something fulfilling," stated Williams. This desire usually never goes away. Helping out when a natural disaster strikes is something that Williams does well. And she added, "Working with the members of the military has taught me something about appreciating life." Williams' expertise in this area (as well as others) makes her a great resource that the American Red Cross will always be ready to tap into.