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Hartsfield-Jackson hosts volunteer awards luncheon

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By M.J. Subiria Arauz

marauz@news-daily.com

Those willing to dedicate their time to the world's busiest airport

by volunteering got a hardy "thank you" from Hartsfield-Jackson

recently.

Approximately 50 volunteers participate in the Hartsfield-Jackson

Host Volunteers Program, some having done so for as long as 16 years,

said Jan Lister, customer service administrator for the Department of

Aviation at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Lister

said she oversees the Hartsfield-Jackson Host Volunteers Program.

Hartsfield-Jackson hosted the "Hartsfield Host 15th Annual Awards

Luncheon" at the airport last week. The luncheon lasted more than an

hour, and included a buffet, and awards and prizes for about 40

volunteers who were present.

Lister explained that though the volunteer program has been around

for 16 years, the first awards luncheon occurred during the second

year of the program.

Airport officials in attendance at the awards luncheon included Louis

Miller, aviation general manager at Hartsfield-Jackson, and Arnaldo

Ruiz, assistant general manager for commercial development and

customer service.

"People who are volunteering are committed to make things happen,"

said Miller, during his presentation at the event.

Miller said he has volunteered for The Salvation Army, and considers

the act of giving one's time willingly a very important gesture. He

said he also volunteered to join the military after he graduated from

high school in 1965. "I wouldn't have been who I am today, if I

wouldn't have done that," said Miller.

Gwen Denham, a volunteer for the program, said she considers the

awards event special and is pleased the airport takes time to

recognize the volunteers.

"I think we do a lot for them," said Denham. "A little payback is good."

Mohamed Hussein, a two-year volunteer with the program, was enjoying

his meal before the awards luncheon began. For Hussein, the event was

well organized and "perfect."

Hussein said he participates in the program because, "I like to help

people."

Richard LaPlante said he has volunteered for 780 weeks and enjoys

every minute of it. "I like greeting the soldiers as they come in,"

he added.

Customer Service Administrator Lister said the volunteers provide

their services to the airport without asking for anything in return,

and the annual awards luncheon recognizes their efforts. "It's the

one time of year we can give something back to them," she said. "They

don't expect anything and they are very loyal."

"Spotlight Award" certificates were awarded for a variety of reasons,

including longevity of service, and recognition from a passenger

through a written letter. There were also door prizes, as well as

awards such as gift cards and boxed pen sets, given to volunteers

based on the number of hours they contributed to the program.

Lister added that the program has become more important since recent

budget cutbacks. Volunteers are stationed in areas such as the

transportation mall and baggage claim areas, which were covered by

customer care representatives, who are paid employees at Hartsfield-

Jackson. Customer care representatives are focusing more on crowd

control and security checkpoint areas, she explained.

Customer care representatives at Hartsfield-Jackson are hired by

Airport Employment and Training Center, Inc., a staffing agency that

screens and hires employees for ICS Contract Services, the company

responsible for the management of the representatives at the airport.

"The Independent Sector, a non-profit that provides resources to help

volunteers improve their organizations and better serve their

communities, has been calculating the value of volunteer time since

1980," said Lister. "The estimated dollar value of volunteer time for

the year 2010 is $21.36 per hour, up from $20.85 in 2009."

She said that according to airport records, volunteers logged in

7,408 hours last year. At $21.36 per hour, the airport would have

paid $158,234.88 for their services, she added.

Lister said the program began in 1996, to coincide with the Atlanta

1996 Summer Olympic Games. Due to its success, the customer-care

representative program began at Hartsfield-Jackson in 1998, she said.

The volunteers are responsible for relaying information to passengers

about various areas of the airport, including ground transportation,

concessions, airlines and security issues, said Lister. Volunteers

are also knowledgeable about the Atlanta area.

Volunteers can be found at the information desk, transportation mall,

security checkpoint areas, baggage claim and Concourse E, she said.

"They've really come through in the clutches," Lister said of the

volunteers.

For more information about the Hartsfield-Jackson Host Volunteers

Program, contact the Landside Operations Customer Care Program, at

(404) 530-7300.