A New Name and a Remodeled Center for USO Northwest

The USO’s footprint in the Northwest has increased.

A look inside the renovated Shali Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. USO Northwest photo

The USO Puget Sound Area operation is no longer defined by the waterways of Washington State. Troops and their families in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and throughout Washington State will now benefit from programs and services offered by the newly rebranded USO Northwest.

The announcement of the name change was made Nov. 8 at a ribbon cutting ceremony for USO Northwest’s remodeled Shali Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

USO Puget Sound Area’s board of directors and staff made the unanimous decision to make the name change in June.

“The closest USOs to USO Northwest are USO Wisconsin to the east and USO San Francisco to the south,” USO Northwest Executive Director Don Leingang said. “My goal is for our USO Mobile Canteen to visit Idaho at least once per year and Oregon two to three times annually or as requested. Although we physically will not be able to drive our Mobile to Alaska, we have already assisted units there through the Helping Hands Grant.”

USO Northwest’s Helping Hands Grant provides access to funds for military events such as homecoming parties, pre-deployment events, command functions and other camaraderie-building events.

More than 3,500 service members will be deploying through the center—which received $375,000 in renovations—before the end of November.

“The center was remodeled because the features were outdated and the design didn’t provide the maximum flow to support our massive troop deployments that are inherent by being the third-largest military installation in the U.S.,” Shali Center Manager Andrew Oczkewicz said.

The Shali Center includes a commercial-grade kitchen, dining room, bathrooms, five flat screen TVs, a United Through Reading room, laptops with Skype capabilities and a gaming lounge with Xboxes. It will continue to provide free food such as hot dogs, made-to-order sandwiches, snacks, fruit and drinks.

“I have no doubt our volunteers and staff can move mountains for our local service members,” Leingang said. “Each one of them sees military personnel as family. They have a great love for what they do. Why else get up at two in the morning to make sandwiches?”

The Shali Center is named after USO Northwest Board Member Joan Shalikashvili and her late husband, Army Gen. John Shalikashvili, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Shalikashvilis have built their lives around service to the U.S. and enriching the lives of local military and their families.

–Meaghan Cox, USO Northwest

Photos From the Field – Labor Day Edition

Our service men and women around the world never take a day off, and neither do we!  There are a variety of picnics and parades taking place at USO Centers, and our dedicated staff and volunteers will be there.  As a special Labor Day treat, we’re bringing you the best in USO photography from around the world.  Enjoy this special holiday installment of our photo essays!

(P.S. – if you know any of the photographers of images that don’t credit one, please let us know!)

The USO Warrior Center enjoyed a surprise visit from Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Sept. 4, 2010. Note the copy of On Patrol magazine on the table in the background! (DoD Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released)

No, it's not a cell phone commercial, it's just golfers at the 19th Annual USO Golf Tournament in Stuttgart. Held at Korwestheim Golf Course, the tournament serves as fun cultural event to bring together USO Stuttgart's American and German friends! (Photo courtesy of USO-Stuttgart's Facebook page)

The USO Puget Sound Area Gala 2010 is scheduled for Friday, October 1st at the Museum of Flight, where this picture was recently snapped. For more information on the event - or to purchase tickets - contact Gala Chair Nancy Strom, vnstrom@aol.com. (Photo courtesy of USO Puget Sound Facebook page)

USO of Indiana - in coordination with the University Relations Division of the University of Notre Dame - encouraged staff and their families to create their own personalized thank you message for the troops, which will be taken to the USO center at Camp Atterbury, as well to the USO Airport Center in Indianapolis. (Photo courtesy of USO of Indiana's Facebook page)

A dark and stormy day at USO Fort Riley! Luckily the storm steered clear of the center, but we couldn't resist this picture! (Photo courtesy of USO Fort Riley Facebook page)

You know that the new USO Center at Kandahar is just about ready to open when the theater gets furniture! This center has been months and months in the making and we can't wait for it to open. (Photo courtesy of USO Kandahar Facebook page)

Volunteer of the Year – Fourth 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 4th Quarter Volunteer Nominees!

May Grace Enjambre – Europe USO Volunteer of the Quarter

As a single service member living far from her family in the Philippines, May Grace Enjambre knows first hand how difficult it is to be in a new place, separated from loved ones. When she first arrived at her duty station in Naples, it was a bit tough. But like so many of the remarkable men and women serving our country, May decided to use her time to help other troops and their families by volunteering with USO Naples.

May is the center’s Publicity Coordinator, working with the Armed Forces Network and the local public affairs office to inform the local Naval Support Activities center about the USO and its programs.  Despite working two jobs, May gives up her weekends to volunteer with the USO. She’s volunteered more than 600 hours assisting over 4,000 in-transit passengers and 1,000 families during USO events. With young people like May serving in our armed forces, we can rest easier knowing that we are in trusted hands.

David Tennent – United States USO Volunteer of the Year

Dave Tennent is one of USO Puget Sound’s superstar volunteers. Fondly known as “Doughnut Dave,” he established procedures to implement a partnership with the Top Pot Doughnut shop and now spends five nights a week picking up and delivering nearly 300 doughnuts to troops and their families.

Dave serves as the lead volunteer for three weekly shifts, averaging nearly 100 volunteer hours per month. His efforts are critical in helping the USO build relationships with outside organizations like the Boeing Blue Bills, the Kirkland Kiwanians and the Kirkland Interfaith Transitions in Housing Group. He’s urged these groups to volunteer and attend USO sponsored events, giving them a chance to show their commitment to our nation’s service members.  Dave’s efforts and positive attitude ensure that the center is able to serve the troops and their families, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

SSgt. Shaina Newton – Southwest Asia USO Volunteer of the Quarter

Staff Sergeant Shaina Newton is a remarkable service member who truly enjoys supporting fellow troops. When she’s not working 12-hour shifts at her regular duty station, she’s at USO Baghdad, where she averages 64 hours per month, making sure the USO center feels like a “home away from home.”

Shaina is constantly coming up with new initiatives to help lift the spirits of her comrades.  She created a revised volunteer database that maps out daily volunteer and visitor trends. This system helps the center predict needs and determine volunteer recruitment goals.  Not only does she bring her wonderful creativity and good nature to our operations, but she has saved USO Baghdad countless hours in tracking and managing volunteers. Shaina Newton’s contributions to the USO are a testament to her exceptional character and we applaud her service to the center and to our nation.

Tracy Johnson – Pacific Region USO Volunteer of the Quarter

Tracy Johnson is a proud Navy submariner spouse, dedicated mother and USO Guam volunteer. Her smile, hearty laughter, and deep commitment to service make her indispensable to our military and their families. Tracy shows her commitment to our nation’s troops and USO Guam in many ways. When the Sesame Street tour came to Guam, Tracy ensured the event was a success, understanding how important it was for the military children on base.

She also helped sell more than $1,400 in raffle tickets for the USO Guam Gala and readily steps up to staff events like the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, Pier Side Flapjack Breakfasts and the furniture auction.  With a heart as big as Texas, and the skills to make things happen, Tracy’s efforts help USO Guam exceed the expectations of guests, and provide the highest level of excellence in service and visitor satisfaction.