Volunteers Keep Spirits High (and Somewhat Dry) During USO Kandahar Flash Flood Cleanup

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When you deploy to the desert, flooding isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Still, a group of USO volunteers and staff bailed out USO Kandahar from a messy situation over the weekend when flash flooding filled some of the center’s rooms with ankle-high water.

“We had a great group of volunteers that were quick to help us get all the furniture and boxes upstairs and to the theatre, which was higher ground and less likely to be affected by the water,” USO Kandahar’s Deborah Ayers wrote in an email. “Within an hour and a half, the water was about 3 inches deep in two of the back rooms, and had pushed forward about halfway through the tent. At that point, the tent had been cleared out except for the volunteers, who went out front to assess the damage.

“[USO Kandahar] has experienced floods almost every year, so this was somewhat expected, and thanks to the amazing cooperation and coordination of the volunteers and staff we got away with minimal damage and we’re up and running again!”

Girl Scouts Give 731 Books to USO/United Through Reading Library at BWI Airport

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Without books to read, the USO/United Through Reading Military Program wouldn’t last a day.

That’s why huge kudos are in order for two Girl Scouts who received their Silver Awards recently after collecting 731 books for the United Through Reading library at the USO inside the Baltimore-Washington International Airport. The program – which the USO facilitates around the world – lets troops record themselves reading books aloud to their kids and then send a copy of that reading home to their family.

Girl Scouts Grace Kinnear and Maeve Hall hosted a lemonade stand, asked for donations at their school book fair and even solicited support from local businesses in order to meet their goal.

Grace’s grandfather, Jim Kinnear, was a motivating force behind the project. The girls were introduced to USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore through Jim’s work as a volunteer and were given a tour of the BWI center when they dropped off a cookie donation. This spurred their idea to replenish the United Through Reading library there.

When Grace and Maeve arrived with a cart full of books Jan. 27, they had an entourage of nearly 30 family members, including parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and grandparents. Even the principal of their school came to celebrate their service. It was an uplifting scene as family and friends gathered around for the presentation, teary with pride for the girls and our troops.

–Story gathered by Lauren Hebert, USO of Metropolitan Washington

USO Duty Manager in Kuwait Dodges Zombies, Helps Troops

Christina Ambrose, a duty manager at USO Camp Buehring, Kuwait

Christina Ambrose, a duty manager at USO Camp Buehring, Kuwait

Christina Ambrose has always been a strong supporter of American troops, even before she became a duty manager at USO Camp Buehring in Kuwait.

Her family volunteered at USO South Carolina and she fell in love with the organization once she started joining them. When asked if she was interested in a full-time position in Southwest Asia, she jumped at the opportunity. She’s been a USO employee for more than a year and loves coming into work every day.

“We have such an amazing staff and our volunteers truly are the heart of our center. They never cease to amaze me with their humor, creative ideas and their passion for our mission.”

The USO staff and volunteers organize lots of fun events and programs for troops at Camp Buehring, but one in particular sticks out for Ambrose.

“I had literally just arrived in Kuwait earlier in the week, and [the Halloween Zombie 5K Run] was the first event I took part in. So, I started off my USO career being chased by zombies.”

Thankfully, those zombies never got to her, and Ambrose is still fully committed to lifting the spirits of troops and their families.

“I love everything that the USO stands for, and to be a part of such an incredible organization and help fulfill our mission is such a rewarding feeling.”

USO Volunteer Wins Keys to Brand New Jeep Wrangler

Norm Hallowell, center, poses with the USO’s Senior Vice President of Operations Alan Reyes, right, and Chrysler Chief Marketing Officer Olivier Francois, after winning a new Jeep Wrangler on Oct. 11 in Washington. (Photo courtesy of Jeep)

Norm Hallowell, center, poses with the USO’s Senior Vice President of Operations Alan Reyes, right, and Chrysler Chief Marketing Officer Olivier Francois, after winning a new Jeep Wrangler on Oct. 11 in Washington. (Photo courtesy of Jeep)

WASHINGTON – Norm Hallowell, a longtime USO volunteer and Vietnam War veteran, won a brand new A 2014 Jeep Wrangler Freedom Edition last night.

Hallowell, the winner of Jeep’s Hero at Home Award, was presented with the honor during The Daily Beast’s Hero Summit at the Newseum in Washington. The winner, who’s amassed more than 580 volunteer hours at the USO, was introduced by Chrysler Chief Marketing Officer Olivier Francois.

“Today, [Jeep] wanted to honor the heroes at home,” said Francois. “So, together with the USO, we thought about an initiative, about recognizing someone — not a hero in uniform — but one who acted as such from behind the scenes.”

To announce the winner, a video clip featuring Hallowell and some of his colleagues played on the big screen. In the video, Hallowell, who volunteers at the USO Family and Warrior Center at Fort Belvoir, Va., said, “I don’t consider myself anybody special. I’m one of 270. … That’s all.”

The award, part of Jeep’s Operation Safe Return program, was voted on by the public. Hallowell beat out two well-deserving colleagues at Fort Belvoir. His humble attitude and dedicated service surely helped him earn the votes needed to win the new Jeep Wrangler.

The USO’s Senior Vice President of Operations Alan Reyes presented Hallowell and his wife with the keys to their new vehicle.

For more information about Operation Safe Return, go here.

Top Responding Centers for 2013 USO Volunteer Satisfaction Survey Announced

The 2013 USO Volunteer Satisfaction Survey numbers have been tallied and the results are in. The top three centers with the highest percentage of volunteers taking the survey, and the center with the most responses overall in each region, are receiving USO Volunteer T-shirts for all their volunteers.

Survey concept.

More than 6,600 volunteers responded to the 2013 survey, 95 percent of which expressed satisfaction with their overall USO volunteer experience.

USO Volunteer Services would like to thank all the center staff for encouraging their volunteers to complete the survey and all the volunteers who took the time to share their thoughts. The winners are:

CONUS Direct Report

  • Travis Air Force Base (USO Bay Area)
  • San Antonio Downtown
  • Dover Air Force Base (USO Delaware)
  • Denver International Airport (Rocky Mountain USO)

CONUS Chartered

  • USO Tampa Bay
  • Joint Base Lewis-McChord (USO Northwest)
  • Milwaukee (USO of Wisconsin)
  • St. Louis Airport (USO of Missouri)

Pacific

  • Camp Kim
  • Camp Walker
  • Camp Humphreys
  • Hawaii-Honolulu International Airport

Europe

  • Wiesbaden Hainerberg Cottage
  • Frankfurt International Airport
  • USO Stuttgart
  • LRMC – Warrior Center

Southwest Asia

  • Camp Leatherneck
  • Camp Marmal
  • FOB Fenty
  • Camp Buehring
  • Dubai

–Story by USO Operations