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USO Celebrates National Volunteer Week

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

By Eric Brandner 

It’s the week to give back to those who give back.

This is National Volunteer Week, the seven days each year Americans thank those who give their time to make the world a better place. And there are few organizations that depend more on volunteers than the USO.

Last year, more than 27,000 USO volunteers across the globe gave more than 1.375 million hours in service to troops and their families through USO centers and programs.

“Volunteers are the absolute lifeblood of the USO,” said Betsy McWhirt, the USO’s director of volunteer services. “For many troops and families, the faces of USO volunteers are often the last ones they see when they deploy or go off to war. And USO smiles are often the first to greet them when they return to U.S. soil.”

USO volunteers do a lot more than make the coffee, though that’s a pretty important job considering USO centers worldwide were visited more than 8.8 million times last year. They open and close centers, coordinate and run events, keep centers clean and keep Internet connections up and running. They offer warm greetings to servicemen and women, comfort injured troops in transit and escort families of the fallen through airports.

“Along the way, USO volunteers are there to share in their joys, sorrows, grief and renewal,” McWhirt said. “What this means to our troops and families often transcends words.”

USO centers around the globe are holding events this week to celebrate their volunteers’ achievements. There is a luncheon at USO Fort Hood, Texas, and a dinner-and-movie night with prizes at USO Kadena in Okinawa, Japan, to name two examples.

USO South Carolina director Joanie Thresher said Columbia Metropolitan Airport management was so impressed with the work the USO is doing that they are donating gift certificates and treats to USO volunteers this week.

At the corporate level, the USO is highlighting National Volunteer Week by announcing the USO Volunteers of the Quarter and posting select stories of service written by USO volunteers around the world on the USO blog.

“If you ask a USO volunteer why they are here, overwhelmingly they will tell you it’s about the troops and their families,” McWhirt said. “National Volunteer Week is such a great opportunity to come together collectively and say ‘thank you’ to the 27,000 USO volunteers across the globe who give so much and ask for so little in return.”

* * *

Photo caption: USO volunteers Patrick Jenkins, left, and Army Spc. Thibaut Lenkoue work at the USO Warrior Center at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Read about why they volunteer. (USO photo)  

* Shop USO Wishbook to donate funds that help more troops and families enjoy the support, programs and services that the USO offers worldwide.  

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