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Volunteer work brings family, community closer

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Brian Bahret
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
November is Military Family Month and the Tofte family is just one example of the military families who embrace the community in an effort to better themselves and their surroundings -- no matter where in the world they live.

"Community is all about people getting involved with one another," said Master Sgt. Damon Tofte, 36th Maintenance Squadron Fabrications Flight chief. "Without that you don't really have a community, you have individuals just walking around each other."

By volunteering at the Horses of Sleepy Meadows Ranch in Yigo, Guam, the Tofte family has discovered a way to stay involved with island residents while improving their own relationships.

For more than a year, Sergeant Tofte, his wife Deanna, their daughter Shanna and son Ty have spent weekends and evenings helping care for the 10 horses and other animals at the 10-acre ranch.

"There's just something about animals that open people up and makes them better people all the way around," he added.

Aside from helping the ranch owner, their work together has helped their family grow closer.

"There are hardships involved with moving," said Sergeant Tofte.

As a 20-year Air Force veteran, he said one of the biggest challenges military families face is feeling alone at each new location. The easiest way to overcome that is to be active.

"This is a way to get out of the house and do something," said Sergeant Tofte. "It's a way to bond and it teaches the kids things other than just video games."

Mrs. Tofte said when people initially arrive at a new assignment it takes time to build friendships. Volunteering at the horse ranch is helping the family rely on one another and meet new people. It's something that she's grown to appreciate because it has brought their family together in a way people who don't move regularly can never understand.

"We draw strength from each other," Mrs. Tofte said. "We're a lot closer now than if we were just in one town without moving."

Shanna, their 13-year-old daughter, first came up with the idea of volunteering at the ranch.

"Working with your family is a great deal because when you're with your family, you move closer to them," said Shanna, an eighth grader at Andersen Middle School. "I think it's fun to be with my family and help. This is one of the most special events we get to do together."

For more information about Horses of Sleepy Meadows Ranch, contact Pat Sakai at 898-0898.