And The Winners Are: Top USO Centers Announced at the TellUSO Awards

A service member signs in at the USO Las Vegas center at McCarran International Airport.

A service member signs in at the USO Las Vegas center inside McCarran International Airport.

What’s your favorite USO center? The USO asks troops and families to pick their favorite center each year through the TellUSO Survey and announces the winners at the annual USO Leadership Conference.

This year’s top overall center went to USO Las Vegas. It’s the second year in a row the Las Vegas airport center took home top prize. They earned the award for receiving the highest overall survey scores in categories like satisfaction, staff helpfulness and value.

But Las Vegas wasn’t the only center to take home a trophy last week. Here are the other winners by category:


Juice And A Snooze: How The USO Helped Ease One Military Mom’s Travel Woes


The McClanahan family. Photo courtesy of Michelle McClanahan

When Michelle McClanahan headed to Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport on her way to Pennsylvania, she didn’t anticipate spending the rest of the day in the Atlanta airport.

But since she and her daughter, Sophia, were flying on a non-reservation status to her grandfather’s funeral — thanks to a perk Michelle’s husband, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob McClanahan, had in an earlier job —  they had to wait until seats became available on a plane from Atlanta to Allentown, Pennsylvania.

It was a long wait.

After several hours of boredom mixed with the sadness and stress of losing her grandfather, Michelle spoke to her husband, who suggested she head to the airport’s USO center.

Not expecting much, Michelle decided to take his advice and went to the USO Jean Amos Center at the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

When she arrived, a volunteer helped her sign in and gave she and her daughter some food. A USO volunteer even went out to purchase some juice for Sophia, since the center only had water and soda at the time.

“I was blown away at how welcoming they were to my family,” McClanahan wrote in an email. “They even comforted me when I started crying over my grandfathers passing!”


After enjoying the refreshments and a much-needed nap, Michelle says a few volunteers even offered to play with Sophia and walk around the center with her.

“I will definitely be using the USO again,” she said. “It represents to me a safe place to go when you feel like you don’t have any options. It represents a family environment.”

Volunteer of the Year – Third Quarter Nominees

To recognize the outstanding contributions of our volunteers, USO centers from our four operating regions—Stateside, Europe, Southwest Asia, and the Pacific—nominate a volunteer for “Volunteer of the Quarter” four times a year. This individual has gone above and beyond in supporting our troops and demonstrating their commitment to the USO mission. From this group of outstanding volunteers a “Volunteer of the Year” is then selected for each region, and, from these nominees comes the USO Volunteer of the Year is selected and honored at our annual gala.

Here are the 2nd Quarter Volunteer Nominees!

Soraya Franklin – Europe Region USO Volunteer of the Quarter

Raised in a military family, Soraya Franklin knows what it means for a service member to be on the move. And she understands the needs of troops and their families. “We need to ensure this is a five-star facility,” is Sonaya’s constant mantra about USO Vicenza. Her standards are high, and she leads by example rather than just words. Along with working three jobs and volunteering with the Vicenza Community Club and Vicenza’s City Library, she still dedicates at least two hours a day to USO Vicenza.

During a six-week period that the USO Vicenza was closed for renovations, Sonaya volunteered more than 70 hours, working hard to get the USO reopened for business.  Although the renovation of USO Vicenza was unexpected, Sonaya never missed a beat. She seized the opportunity and embraced the challenge of improving the center so that it would be ready to serve its community.  Her honor and loyalty are sincerely appreciated and we are happy to name her Europe’s Volunteer of the Quarter.

Petty Officer First Class Jeffery Reed – United States Region USO Volunteer of the Quarter

When Petty Officer First Class Jeffery Reed could no longer fulfill his daily obligations to the military, he became a USO volunteer. Since August 2009, PO1 Reed has been the lead volunteer for the USO Gulf Coast’s Navy Construction Battalion Center (NCNB) in Gulfport, MS.

Demonstrating the same drive and dedication he has always given to his more than 20 years of military service, PO1 Reed took charge in helping the center relocate.  His efforts saved USO Gulf Coast large amounts of money on consulting fees.

Reed’s positive leadership and mentoring are great examples to his fellow volunteers.  Under his volunteer leadership, the volunteer turnover rate for the USO lounge on NCBC is the lowest it has ever been.  He is a positive example of service for USO staff and volunteers alike. We applaud PO1 Reed on being Volunteer of the Quarter!

Vanessa Engelhardt – Southwest Asia Region USO Volunteer of the Quarter

Sailors and Marines visiting USO Dubai are always happy to meet Vanessa Engelhardt, a dedicated center volunteer. Born in Australia and raised in Germany, Vanessa uses her background to break the ice with center visitors, making them feel comfortable and at home.

USO Dubai is unique because it isn’t open daily. However, when a U.S. Naval ship pulls into port, up to 1,000 sailors and Marines can descend on the center in short order. During these times, Vanessa usually volunteers every day for regular seven-hour shifts.  Center visitors enjoy the baked goods that Vanessa has waiting for them when a ship comes into port. For a service member who has been out to sea for weeks, or even months, a fresh cookie or brownie made with lots of TLC can mean so much!  She loves to help out in any way possible and we congratulate her on being Southwest Asia’s Volunteer of the Quarter!

Master Sergeant Shane Price – Pacific Region USO Volunteer of the Quarter

Master Sergeant Shane Price knows a thing or two about big projects. As a flight chief at Osan Air Base, not only does he keep his entire squadron operating smoothly, but he has recruited fellow airmen to volunteer more than 1,500 hours during special events like Gary Sinise’s Lt. Dan Band Concert, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader Holiday Show, and most recently the Sesame Street/USO Experience.

MSgt. Price was instrumental in the planning and initial implementation of the Virtues Outreach Program in Songtan, South Korea. This program promotes stronger ties between the U.S. military and local Korean community through English language instruction. He also ensures volunteer staffing for every day tasks, and his efforts greatly contribute to USO Osan consistently having the highest number of volunteer in Korea. Price’s volunteer contributions are extensive, and his dedication to the USO and commitment to the Korean—American partnership is an inspiration to all he meets. Congrats on being USO Pacific’s Volunteer of the Quarter!