Out of hundreds of applicants, one Cumberland County woman’s work with area veterans secured her a spot among 22 state volunteers who will recently be recognized by Governor Roy Cooper.
Since 2005, Stacey Buckner has provided mobile showers, food and toiletries to homeless veterans in Cumberland County through her specially equipped, non-profit Jeep known as Off-Road Outreach.
Buckner was named the recipient of the Governor’s Medallion Award for Volunteer Service during a virtual April 20 ceremony hosted by the Volunteer NC Commission.
According to the commission, only one medallion nomination is allowed per county. A statewide panel reviews all applications.
Buckner said she wanted to share the award with everyone who has volunteered in Cumberland County and those who continue to serve.
Gov. Roy Cooper said all volunteers had “gone above and beyond” to help their communities.
“You live our state motto – esse quam videri – which means ‘to be rather than to appear,'” Cooper said. “You are a shining example of what it means to be a North Carolina.”
After:Organizations hold benefits to help bury vet whose ashes were found in warehouse
According to Buckner’s nomination form, she was born and raised in Fayetteville and works part-time at the Fayetteville Veterans’ Hospital as a ServiceSource employee.
ServiceSource supports people with disabilities, their families, and caregivers with services that include financial coaching, vocational training employment opportunities, services for the deaf, services for seniors, and services for veterans, among others.
“Stacey is not a veteran, but comes from a family of veterans,” her nomination form reads. “Stacey found her passion for helping needy veterans and the homeless while working her part-time job…at the VA.”
Despite a stroke a few years ago that left her with a traumatic brain injury, Buckner hasn’t let that stop her from helping thousands of veterans a year, her nomination form says.
In 2019 Buckner was contacted by a woman who purchased a storage shed and found the cremated remains of Cpl. James William Gartland – a soldier who joined the army in 1966 and died on August 21, 2016.
Buckner tracked down Gartland’s brother in Pennsylvania, who felt like his brother had been buried after he died and was unsure how his cremated remains ended up in a storage unit.
Buckner helped organize fundraisers for the remnant of Gartland to be escorted to Pennsylvania by veterans and military.
Buckner’s nomination form says that every day after work and on her day off, she made up hygiene kits for the homeless.
One day a homeless woman asked Bucker what she was supposed to do with the soap in the kit.
“Realizing that finding showers was a big problem for the homeless, Stacey had an idea and outfitted her Jeep with a shower, washing machine, grill and more at her own expense and expense. his pace,” his nomination form reads.
Every Friday, she loads 40 gallons of water into a shower tank on the Jeep and continues to provide food, hygiene kits and hot showers to the homeless, while washing their clothes.
Off-Road Outreach was created in 2016 to show appreciation to veterans and service members, Buckner said in a video during the virtual ceremony.
“I can’t think of a better way to thank a veteran for their service than to make sure they’re taken care of,” Buckner said.
In 2020, Buckner partnered with ServiceSource to create a community garden she calls Veggies for Vets intended to serve homeless, low-income veterans or veterans facing food shortages.
She said the garden also serves as a therapeutic space for veterans who volunteer to tend it.
According to her nomination form, she recently organized a garden event to plant 13 trees in memory of the 13 military personnel who died during the withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan last August.
On January 10, she also partnered with Operation Inasmuch, ServiceSource, the Fayetteville Woodpeckers, and Mission BBQ to distribute hundreds of hygiene items, new warm clothes, blankets, and provide lunch and a hot shower.
After:Veggies for Vets: A community garden serving homeless veterans
After:The Cumberland nonprofit helps vets and homeless people during the coronavirus pandemic
“If you asked Stacey, why are you doing this? She would say, ‘I just want to meet a basic human need that everyone on this earth should have… food, a hot shower, love,” her nomination form reads.
During the virtual ceremony, award chair Yvonne Kinston thanked all the volunteers and said their work did not go unnoticed. Kinston is a District 9 representative on the Fayetteville City Council.
“You fill in the gaps. You reach out to our community, and you volunteer your time and make sacrifices,” Kinston said.
Joe Blosser, chairman of the North Carolina Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service, said all recipients are part of a “movement for service, caring and empathy.”
“We North Carolina are a strong state when we serve; when we frame; when we come together to help each other,” Blosser said.
Writer Rachael Riley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-486-3528.