Welles: Many ways to serve

Most federal employees are integral parts of the communities where they live

It doesn't take a tsunami for federal workers to want to help others. Many have volunteered for years, extending their careers into community service. Others help in ways totally different from their day jobs.

Jim Angus, Web site project manager at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, Md., is a virtual

volunteer. He manages and maintains the Web sites of the California Association of Museums and the Museum Education Roundtable in Washington, D.C. He also provides financial help to a child on a Hopi reservation in Arizona, where he has spent time with the child and his family.

From tutoring to lunch buddies to coaching, federal employees find opportunities to help children. Mary Frances Martin, a special agent with the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation Division, volunteers as a court-appointed special advocate for abused and neglected children.

At Voices for Children, she has provided guidance to the teenage children of a heroin addict and appeared at juvenile services hearings on their behalf.

"They need someone in their ball court," she said. "I try to work within the system to get them to the right place."

"Most federal employees are integral parts of the communities where they live," said Arthur Lopez, whose day job is with the Federal Transit Administration's Office of Chief Counsel.

"It is hard to talk about what we do because it is simply an extension of our public service," he said. "The skills we take for granted are often welcomed in the community."

At night, Lopez is a member of the Minority Student Advisory Committee of the Fairfax, Va., School Board. He also coaches Hispanic and other minority students who want to build skills for competitive swim teams.

Catherine Tunis, a senior policy analyst at the Environmental Protection Agency, volunteers as chairwoman of the Takoma Park, Md., Committee on the Environment.

Her work has included open-space planning, responding to West Nile virus outbreaks and promoting more public involvement in the group's efforts.

"I try to serve as an ambassador between the research scientists who study the environment and the decision-makers who need to understand that science," she said.

Daryl Covey, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Norman, Okla., is also active in his community. He is chairman of the board of directors for the local fire protection and rural water districts.

He volunteers because "it is extremely satisfying to know at the end of the day that you were part of saving someone's life or property or bringing them clean drinking water."

Thanks to all who told us about their volunteer experiences. You know how to get a life!

Welles is a retired federal employee who has worked in the public and private sectors. She lives in Bethesda, Md., and writes about work life topics for Federal Computer Week. She can be reached at judywelles@fcw.com.