Hartsfield-Jackson to host inaugural Airport Volunteer Awards Celebration

Filed in Events, News, Volunteerism by on April 7, 2016

Every day, volunteers at Hartsfield-Jackson lend a helping hand and a kind word to the nearly 275,000 guests who pass through the world’s most traveled airport. Some volunteers guide our youngest visitors during Airport tours while others greet our men and women in uniform or share a prayer for people of all faiths.

Over the years, ATL’s volunteers have been recognized among their respective peers for their commitment and service, but they’ve never come together for one unified awards ceremony.

Until now.

On April 11, up to 400 volunteers will gather for the inaugural Airport Volunteer Awards Celebration at the Atlanta Airport Marriott Gateway. There, Hartsfield-Jackson will honor individuals from the Department of Aviation, the Airport Chaplaincy, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and the USO, ushering in a new tradition of volunteer recognition across the ATL community.

The event comes 20 years after the Airport launched the Host volunteer program. The program, which coincided with the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, initially drew up to 250 volunteers. Over the years, many left or retired, but the program is still going strong, said Jan Lister, senior Guest Relations manager.

These days, nearly 70 active volunteers, clad in red vests, perform a myriad of customer service duties. They staff ATL’s information desks, assist with special events, and direct lost or stressed-out travelers in the baggage claim and transportation mall areas. Some volunteer four hours a week while others do it twice a month, during special events or “just when they’re able,” Lister said.

Volunteers come from all walks of life, from high school students to young adults to retirees, and they devote their time for a variety of reasons. Some do it to meet people and boost their self-esteem. Others do it to develop new skills and polish up their resumes. And many others do it simply because they love to give of themselves, Lister said.

“People who volunteer mostly do it for the intrinsic values, not because they want anything,” she said. “Nobody has to volunteer. They’re not getting paid. So what would make you want to do that unless you’re getting something that makes you feel good? Definitely, it’s from the heart.”

A servant’s heart, as Airport General Manager Miguel Southwell often puts it.

But that spirit of service and selflessness isn’t limited to Hartsfield-Jackson. Although several groups devote their time exclusively to Airport volunteerism, others venture out to serve the metro region – and beyond. Employees at Delta Air Lines, for instance, do community outreach through Habitat for Humanity, the nonprofit KaBOOM! and the Children’s Miracle Network of Hospitals, among others. Employees at Southwest Airlines volunteer for such nonprofits as the Ronald McDonald House, 100 Black Men of Atlanta and Project Open Hand.

At next week’s event, which runs from 5:30 p.m. – 9 p.m., each group will recognize its volunteers and award prizes. A dinner and pre-event mixer are also on tap.

Cheryl Kortemeier, executive director of the Corporate Volunteer Council of Atlanta, will serve as the keynote speaker, and Steve Mayers, director of Guest Relations, will emcee the event. Michael L. Smith, Aviation senior deputy general manager, will deliver opening remarks. Other Department of Aviation officials as well as airline representatives also will be on hand. Attendees can drive ($8 for discounted parking), or they can take the SkyTrain from the Airport to the hotel.

Lister still plans to have a separate awards luncheon for her Host volunteers, and she has big plans for the program going forward.

“We want to recruit 200-300 volunteers,” she said. “And my goal for them is to start becoming more ambassadors to the entire Airport. In other words, get out from behind the desk, get out from the terminals, go out into the concourses, not just the trains, but upstairs as well. Volunteering makes an impression. It does help people.”

Volunteers from the Department of Aviation, the Airport Chaplaincy, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and the USO will be recognized at the inaugural Airport Volunteer Awards Celebration on April 11 at the Atlanta Airport Marriott Gateway.

Volunteers from the Department of Aviation, the Airport Chaplaincy, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and the USO will be recognized at the inaugural Airport Volunteer Awards Celebration on April 11 at the Atlanta Airport Marriott Gateway.

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