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WASHINGTON – Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) is pleased to announce the 2020 recipients of the James M. Roche Spirit of Volunteerism Award. The recipients are ESGR volunteers nominated by their respective ESGR State Committee Chairs for their exceptional contributions to ESGR’s mission over a sustained period of time.

ESGR has the unique characteristic for a government organization of relying on nearly 3,500 volunteers across 54 state committees to carry out local engagement with Service members, employers, and to conduct informal mediation between civilian employers and Service members when issues arise related to military service.

In 2019, ESGR volunteers logged more than 205,000 hours of service, delivering a $5.2 million return on investment to the Department of Defense. Collectively, ESGR volunteers executed 3,819 events, engaged more than 11,600 employers and briefed more than 305,000 Service members last year.

The Roche award is named for James M. Roche, who served several years as the ESGR National Chair after retiring as Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board at General Motors Corporation, and other senior leadership roles at PepsiCo, Jack Eckerd Corporation, and the New York Stock Exchange. A past quote attributed Roche reads: "Anybody who achieves a top position in an organization owes a debt of some kind. If you have a talent and you have your health, you should help others."

We congratulate the 2020 Roche Award recipients for their outstanding service to ESGR and the Department of Defense:

·       Beresford Edwards has dedicated more than 1,400 hours of service over nine years to the Virgin Islands ESGR Committee in a variety of leadership roles, including State Chair. Under his leadership and commitment to educate Service members and employers, he influenced and engaged more than 1,200 employers through the Committee’s outreach programs.

·       Fred Fair is a veteran of the U.S. Army and Army Reserve, and has volunteered with the Pennsylvania ESGR Committee for 32 years, dedicating more than 1,000 hours to support employer outreach and ombudsman efforts in just the last four years. His passion for ESGR’s mission shows in his mentorship of new volunteers, and the impact he’s made on the employers and Service members throughout the state.

·       Jack Grams, a veteran of the Air Force Reserve, has supported the Minnesota ESGR Committee since 2001, going above and beyond to engage employers and Service members in ESGR’s education and recognition programs. Grams has dedicated more than 2,000 hours of service to ESGR over the last four years alone, attended countless events, delivered training and briefings to volunteers, employers and Service members, and played a key role in the Minnesota Committee’s Freedom Award selection process.

·       Caryl Hill, first got involved with ESGR in 2002 as an employer working in the private sector and has since made significant contributions to the Texas ESGR Committee in employer engagement and many other areas. She has dedicated more than 1,390 hours of service and held leadership roles, including Employer Outreach Director and currently, Area Chair. She’s made a tremendous impact influencing employers in her area and across Texas, including the city of San Antonio, which has one of the nation’s largest concentrations of Service members and military installations. 

·       Jack Johnson, has served the ESGR Oregon Committee since 1986, and since 2001 has been in a leadership position as a regional chair, dedicating countless hours to ESGR. When local National Guard unit training ramped up in 2018 in Johnson’s area of responsibility, he was responsible for creating and leading an effort to minimize misunderstandings between employers and Service members, resulting in nearly 240 local businesses signing Statements of Support for their Guard and Reserve employees.

·       Patrick Morrissey, California, has served in the California ESGR Committee since 2006, holding a variety of leadership roles and contributing nearly 2,000 hours of volunteer service just in the last four years. A true servant leader, he has mentored fellow volunteers and led and implemented a number of efforts to improve the effectiveness of his Committee. 

·       John Pelose, Massachusetts, has contributed nearly 1,350 hours of volunteer service to ESGR since 2005. Pelose is a regional chair with the Massachusetts ESGR Committee, and has stepped up to assist in every type of role, including training and mentoring fellow volunteers, mediating USERRA cases between employers and Service members, and conducting military and employer outreach.

·       Paul Ray, served in the Oklahoma Air National Guard for 18 years, and during four years of active duty in the U.S. Navy in the 1960s, served a combat tour in Vietnam. Ray continues to give back, volunteering with the Oklahoma ESGR Committee since 2008, contributing hundreds of hours of service. He currently holds dual leadership roles with the Oklahoma ESGR Committee, serving as a regional chair and ombudsman director. 

·       Joyce Robinson has volunteered with the Mississippi ESGR Committee for the past ten years. Robinson has leveraged her 22 years of military service with the Air National Guard and her current professional role in human resources to educate and engage employers and Service members on their USERRA rights. She is currently an ombudsman and regional chair for the Mississippi ESGR committee. 

·       Colleen Trout has dedicated an incredible 5,455 hours of service to the Florida ESGR committee over the last decade. She’s made a difference in all areas of the Committee’s work, engaging hundreds of employers, briefing an average of 2 units per month, and spending an average of 6 hours per week assisting Service members, military spouses with USERRA related issues and employer recognition.

About ESGR

ESGR, a Department of Defense program, seeks to foster a culture in which all employers support and value the employment and military service of members of the National Guard and Reserve in the United States. ESGR develops and promotes supportive work environments for Service members in the Reserve Components through outreach, recognition, and educational opportunities that increase awareness of applicable laws. It also provides assistance in resolving conflicts between Service members and their employers. To learn more about ESGR, part of the Defense Personnel and Family Support Center, visit https://ESGR.mil.

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