Most people use the word "unbelievable" to describe the contributions of Christiane Saunders to the Fort Lewis military community. Saunders has been involved as a volunteer in military communities since 1993 and has worked as the Fort Lewis Army Community Service (ACS) Volunteer Coordinator for the past four years. In that time, she has greatly impacted the military community in a variety of ways, including mobilizing 200 volunteers for ACS since her arrival.
Saunders organizes, directs and provides training for each new volunteer and ensures that childcare costs are paid for each volunteer. During 1998, she organized an innovative training program aimed at teaching young Army couples how to shop economically for food. The Commissary Shopping Class is loosely modeled after a Fort Bragg program and is taught at the installation commissary twice a month.
Each year, Saunders participates in special projects that ACS coordinates, including Kid's Fest, the annual Fort Lewis Women's Conference and the City of Lakewood Teen Resource Youth Festival. She also organizes and coordinates the ACS Volunteer Awards Ceremony so the staff can pay tribute to the phenomenal work the volunteers provide. She volunteers between 35-40 hours per week in ACS.
Additionally, she devotes extra time to a variety of other activities within the community. She manages the "Santa's Castle" program, a self-help program that recruits volunteers from family support groups to assist her in repairing and cleaning donated toys. In the two years she has managed the program, Saunders has made Christmas come true for nearly 1,400 military families, providing over 8,500 toys to over 2,400 children.
Herself a foreign-born spouse, Saunders volunteers as a certified translator. Each year, she provides an average of 70 medical, legal and business transactions primarily for foreign-born spouses. She speaks six languages and can translate several others. Saunders doesn’t charge a fee, which saves each individual approximately $250. She has also led Family Support Groups, which provide support to spouses while their husbands or wives are deployed.
The Fort Lewis Military Community has been directly impacted by the extensive volunteer efforts of Christiane Saunders. Her selfless acts have dramatically increased the quality of life in the community. She has shown that she is fully committed to improving life for military families and has mobilized a legion of volunteers to assist her with this important mission.