Christopher Burnett | Staff Writer
Volunteers are a vital part of the Fort Leavenworth community, giving tens of thousands of hours of their time and saving the post millions of dollars. This is the third in a series of articles on volunteers who support the post. They represent the many who will be recognized in a ceremony at 1 p.m. today at the Frontier Conference Center.
If you want to get Denisse Findlay excited, ask her about the volunteer work she does with the community Mayors Program. Or ask her about the Fort Leavenworth Spouses Club, where she coordinates the activities of other volunteers and special events. Findlay will also tell you about the volunteer work she does for National Mill Dog Rescue, as well as how much she enjoys being one of the parent volunteers at MacArthur Elementary School on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
Findlay said she started volunteering 17 years ago at the local humane society in Harlingen, Texas. She said volunteerism has been part of her life since and she has sought out opportunities wherever her family has lived.
“I always start at a local animal shelter and move on from there especially when we PCS,” Findlay said. “I have learned from my years here at Fort Leavenworth that (Army Community Service) is one of the first places to look for volunteer positions and learning experience.”
Findlay said working as a volunteer coordinator for the FLSC is probably one of the easiest volunteer jobs because the membership is so cooperative. She said her role is to ensure there are volunteers assigned to assist with club activities and events.
“Most of our volunteers come from our database that allows club members to sign up among our volunteer pool for future needs,” Findlay said. “It’s a great group and I hope people know how much our volunteer spouses have helped to make events that much more successful.”
Findlay also volunteers as the FLSC special events coordinator, whih she said is one of the most challenging, yet enjoyable experiences she has had. She said there are elements of the job that require incorporating her ideas into past practices or putting an entirely different spin on a project or event.
“I worked with a small team, most notably last year’s first Vice (President) Joanne Collins and Treasurer Kimberly Williams,” Findlay said. “We were very productive and got things done, like making our holiday extravaganza event a success. The best part of it all is that a lot of what I did last year was incorporated again this year and, with the added vision of our special events volunteers, this year it turned out even better.”
Among her current volunteer activities, Findlay said the Mayors Program has been the most enjoyable and amazing experience so far for her. She is the mayor of Pottawatomie Village.
Page 2 of 4 - “I cannot express how much fun and how fantastic this program has been. I get to talk to my neighbors pretty often, and I get to work with and learn from our director of (Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation) Glenn Hewitt,” Findlay said. “I have learned so much from him, and the skills that I have learned are something I can take away, then implement in other volunteer jobs.”
Hewitt said Findlay had taken it upon herself to be a peer mentor for other communities. He said Findlay is an excellent communicator with the members of her village.
“Denisse Findlay is among the best mayors we’ve had in the program — superlative in her efforts for the community,” Hewitt said. “Denisse has harnessed the power of social media and uses her community Facebook page as a practical way to keep her village informed.”
Findlay said mayors attend a monthly meeting with Garrison Commander Col. Andrew Shoffner. She said other installation directors attend as well.
“They are the most intelligent and fun group of people to work with for the betterment of the community,” Findlay said. “I cannot thank them enough for helping us make our villages beautiful. Such support from the command helps the mayors be that much more productive and fruitful liaisons.”
Findlay said a common aspect of her work as mayor is doing a lot of things behind the scenes.
“Among my favorite things to do as mayor involves community members getting together and interacting with one another,” Findlay said. “I enjoy planning events for our village along with my Vice Mayor Katie Hartrich. I would encourage everyone interested in participating to do so.”
Findlay began volunteering as social media coordinator for National Mill Dog Rescue of Peyton, Colo., several years ago, during her family’s assignment at Fort Carson. She said the organization, founded in 2007, was still quite small when she began.
“When I started volunteering with NMDR, we had no more than maybe 100 rescued dogs. Our social media sources had just begun and most of our online followers were local, with many of them being our volunteers,” Findlay said. “Our social media group consisted of only three people total, including myself.”
Findlay said the volunteer members of the NMDRe social media team eventually learned how to use the platform effectively. She said they taught themselves about best social media practices through research and a lot of hard work.
“Our group grew from three to now 26 volunteers, and we went from 100 followers to now hundreds of thousands of fans,” Findlay said. “We’ve been on the major television networks educating about puppy mills.”
Page 3 of 4 - Findlay said her success with social media is because of deliberate methodology and proven tactics. She said those following her pages would see her posting regularly.
“These posts are extremely carefully written and published on certain days and times. We have a very specific strategy to reach people and to educate,” Findlay said. “We stay current with the latest trends and watch seminars online about how to do social media — how to share information and reach as many people as possible.”
Findlay is a parent volunteer at MacArthur Elementary School two days each week. She said the work includes tasks like cutting and gluing, to helping staff organize education programs.
“On Tuesdays and Thursdays mainly, you will find me at the new MacArthur Elementary School in the morning,” Findlay said. “I love nothing more than seeing my kids pass by the parent workroom where we do most of our volunteering. They let me know how great it is to see me help their teachers.”
Findlay said she was born in Orizaba, Veracruz, Mexico, but grew up in San Benito, Texas, and became a U.S. citizen last October.
“I love to learn about other cultures, languages and dialects, which seem to come quickly to me,” Findlay said. “I’m very passionate about education and preventing animal abuse.”
Findlay said her parents taught giving and being good to others. Her mother is a nurse and also a passionate animal rescuer. Her father is an engineer and known as a giving man.
“My dad is the type of person who would take the shirt off his back without any hesitation to give it to someone in need. He’s also a big prankster just like me,” Findlay said. “My little sister is also a recognized volunteer in her community and is known to light up a room when she walks in. I come from a very hardworking family. And, as you can see, I’ve learned a lot from them.”
Her husband is Maj. Anthony Findlay, a simulations officer at the National Simulations Center. She said Anthony regularly volunteers as a coach for youth sports.
“He’s the husband who plays outside with all the neighborhood kids in a game of basketball or catch,” Findlay said. “My husband is a very supportive and understanding person who enjoys being around family and friends.”
Findlay said she and Anthony, married for almost nine years, have four children who are all boys. Murdoc is 10 years old, Thomas is 8, and their 4-year-old twins are Hawke and Sawyer. She said the children are following in her footsteps and volunteering when they can.
Page 4 of 4 - “We also have three big dogs — Dakota, Duke and Clutch. All three of them are rescues from two different pet rescue organizations where I’ve volunteered,” Findlay said. “Our family loves sports, so usually you will see us attending professional sports games as often as we can. Other times find us having game nights at home or socializing with our neighbors in Pottawatomie Village.”
Findlay said it is important to have fun while volunteering.
“Know your limits and learn how to say no and ask for help. These are key to being a successful, happy volunteer. The moment you stop enjoying what you’re doing, it’s probably the moment to find something new to do,” Findlay said. “I think that’s the beauty of being a volunteer, and there are so many things you can choose to do. There’s no way one could ever get bored. Volunteering provides invaluable experiences, professional networking opportunities, and the friendships you make along the way are priceless.”