Graham native Jennifer N. Rickert is the ultimate volunteer.

A 1998 Graham High School graduate, Rickert is a mother, mentor, wife and, above all, a giver. Her love of volunteering began in high school where she served as president of the Health Occupation Students of America, volunteered in the Graham EMS and served in the Latin Club. 

Her parents, Becky and Woodie Elliot of Graham, noticed Rickert’s love for helping others when their daughter was still a child.

“I actually have always had that servant mentality at heart,” Rickert said. “I always love to help people. I’ve been that way since I was little.” 

Rickert’s husband, Charles, has served in the army for 15 and a half years, earning the rank of Sergeant First Class. They’re stationed at Fort Huachuca, located an hour south of Tucson, Ariz.  

Rickert has traveled with her husband since the two married in 2003, and she has found ways to help others everywhere she goes. 

Her résumé is impressive, having volunteered for the Army Community Service, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, United Service Organizations, Family Readiness Groups, Habitat for Humanity, Protestant Women of the Chapel and Boy Scouts of America. 

The list goes on and on and includes civic entities as well as an array of elementary schools. 

Her volunteer record, however lengthy, also reveals clues to a past dotted with peer mistreatment and a misguided suicide attempt at age 18 after enduring years of bullying, depression and anxiety.

“Just going through all kinds of things in my life, you just question life sometimes, or question God with ‘Why do you allow these people to be so hateful to me when all I would do is give and love?’” she said. “I love people, and going through that is really the reason why I started to give back because I realized that sometimes people just need you to smile at them.”

Rickert’s love and genuine concern for others pushed her to co-create the Resilient Spouse Academy, which helps military spouses deal with depression, lifestyle changes and raising families when a spouse is deployed.

“Nowadays, it’s hard as military spouses because we move around, have to constantly change careers or sometimes can’t get one,” Rickert said, adding that her group covers everything from learning how to bounce back from diversity to knowing how to communicate with others. 

Rickert’s tireless efforts to help and support others was recently recognized by the U.S. Army, as she was awarded the Margaret C. Corbin Award 2014 in September 2013. The award is given to a military spouse for, as the award states, “demonstrating dedicated, exemplary volunteerism as an outstanding, totally committed military spouse working tirelessly to improve the quality of life for soldiers and their families.” 

Read more in in Sunday's Graham Leader.