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JBLE Torch Club forges their own path home

By 633d Air Base Wing Public Affairs Staff 633d Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Joint Base Langley-Eustis is empowering its youth with the Torch Club, which allows children from the ages of 9-13 to work together to discuss new, old and future projects around the installation.

Currently Fort Eustis has 25 members who plan and coordinate projects throughout the month. The children are the project managers for their ideas and use books to conduct their research and host their own meetings.

“What’s wonderful about the Torch Club is everyone’s project is important,” said Sharon James, JBLE Youth Program child and youth assistant. “Whatever you have an interest in, whether it’s helping the homeless, caring for animals or volunteering at shelters, everyone is going to support it. They’re learning how to contact outside resources, learning how to get their voices heard, practicing public speaking and actually going out and knocking on doors and getting things done. They’re taking the initiative and the drive to complete their projects.”

The club is active and has racked up hundreds of hours of community service by participating in projects in their community to include food banks, Project Sidewalk and getting new lights for their building.

“They have become proactive and it shows their resilience,” James said. “They are learning to adapt and use problem solving skills in different situations when they hit road blocks in their projects.”

One of the most recent projects the club worked on was Project Sidewalk. It started a year ago when some of the children were frustrated because they were not allowed to walk home because the route was unsafe.

According to James, the children would discuss how unhappy they were about not being able to walk home and one day they decided, ‘we have got to get a sidewalk.’

The children began by bringing their issue to school administrators and the community center to see who had jurisdiction over the sidewalk. Once they hit a road block, they began a petition and went door-to-door on post gathering signatures.

To get their points across the children invited Col. Jenn Walkawicz , 733d Mission Support Group commander and Donna Fontes, 733d Force Support Division director, as well as their families to walk the path the children must walk every day and shared their safety concerns.

“The club members were the ones actually writing the emails and tracking the correspondence,” James said. “They were the ones presenting this project to leadership and providing alternate solutions including a bridge. They contacted security forces to learn about the traffic data and used it to support their presentation.”

The sidewalk project was one of two concerns raised during the annual Army Family Action Plan conference.

“It’s amazing,” said Billie Hogan, 733rd Force Support Division acting chief of Youth Programs. “They’re really excited to see their efforts come to fruition. They saw this project through all the way to the end and they didn’t take no for an answer. They contacted all the right people and the commander listened and she knew it was a safety concern and told them, ‘Above everything, this will happen.’ And she made it happen for them.”

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