In observation of National Volunteer Week, an APG military spouse will receive the Emma Marie Baird Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service from the Department of the Army. Only two volunteers were selected for this award world-wide this year.
Melinda Conway, the spouse of Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Conway, with the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, will be the first person from the APG community to receive the notable award, which will be presented during the annual Volunteer Recognition Ceremony, hosted by Army Community Service, at Top of the Bay April 20.
The Emma Marie Baird Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service was established Aug. 29, 1988 by the Secretary of the Army to memorialize the late Lt. Col. Emma Marie Baird, who is considered the founder of ACS. Nominees are required to serve at least 3,750 hours in ACS leadership position over a period of five years, and have endorsement of the installation commander, or equivalent.
ACS Volunteer Coordinator Sarah Polanco, who nominated Conway, said the recognition is “well deserved.” Since 2012, Conway has contributed more than 3,750 hours assisting service members and their families through APG ACS.
“This is a prestigious ACS award with strict nomination criteria and only a few volunteers are selected each year,” Polanco said.
Polanco called Conway a “true asset to ACS.”
“Mrs. Conway has an innate passion for volunteering, which you rarely see,” she said. “Her commitment to serving and taking care of others is reflected in her multiple volunteer efforts for ACS, the APG community, and Harford county.”
Polanco added that volunteers, in general, provide critical services to military communities, especially during federal hiring freezes.
“That’s why volunteers are so important, they can step in and assist in times like these, when organizations can’t hire, but they need the manpower, they need the support,” she said.
Dedication to ACS
Conway established the ATEC Family Readiness Group and organized the ACS Angel Tree Program, which provides holiday gifts to military children.
“I really enjoy that program, it gives back to the green suiters and it’s a lot of fun,” Conway said.
She is also an Army Family Team Building instructor, an ACS volunteer supervisor and has assisted with multiple ACS events including the quarterly Newcomers Orientation, Military Spouse Appreciation Day, the Volunteer Recognition Ceremony, Run to Honor and the Installation Disaster Preparedness Event.
“Melinda has been helping out ACS for years, not only here but at previous installations as well. She has taken on major roles, like [serving as] the lead for the Angel Tree Program, which is community wide,” Polanco said.
Conway said her goal in life is to be a caregiver and to “help wherever is needed.”
“I try to put less stress on those who are in charge [ the program managers] so they can take a break to breathe,” she said. “I just try to step in and help as much as possible.”
Dedication to the community
Conway’s other volunteer endeavors include serving as an organization point of contact for APG’s Protestant Women of the Chapel; assisting APG Morale, Welfare and Recreation as a bingo caller at the APG Bowling Center; and supporting the APG Community Spouses Club as a parliamentarian. In this role, her duties include assisting in the drafting and interpretation of bylaws and rules of order and the planning and conduct of meetings.
In the local community, she frequently volunteers for Aberdeen High School, where her son Jordan Conway, 17, is a student. She established the AHS Band Booster program to generate funds to reduce the cost of off-site performances and currently serves as the AHS Parent-Teacher-Student treasurer.
“Her attention to detail in preparing the forecasted budget for the school year allows the organization to sponsor such events as the Honors Breakfast, Teacher Appreciation Day Luncheon and the After Prom Party to name a few,” Polanco said.
Conway said she was honored to receive the award, calling it a “team effort.”
“I am thankful to Sarah, to my husband, to the APG community, to everyone that supports me in allowing me to help them,” she said.
In 2016, Conway received the “APG Volunteer of the Year Award” during the annual Volunteer Recognition Ceremony and the Conway family was named the “APG Family of the Year” during the 39th Annual Military Appreciation Luncheon hosted by the Harford County Chamber of Commerce at the Richlin Ballroom in Edgewood.