USO Manager of Volunteer Operations Sarah Kemp introduces the USO Volunteers of the Quarter for winter 2015.
Army Spc. Bethzaida Vazquez | USO Bagram, Afghanistan | SWA Region
When Bethzaida Vazquez is volunteering at USO Bagram, everyone who walks in the door knows it. That’s because they’re all greeted with a hug and some homemade food.
Vazquez ensures every service member who enters one of the two USO centers at Bagram feels at home. With her cheerful spirit – and her excellent cooking skills – she creates a family atmosphere.
“Bethzaida embodies all of our core values and adds her own sweet personality that draws people to the USO,” USO Bagram Duty Manager Rasheeda Mitchell said.
When the USO Bagram staff needed help organizing T-shirts and runners for the Super Hero 5K, Vazquez jumped in, acting as the location’s super hero. She has volunteered more than 140 hours so far and isn’t slowing down.
Vazquez led the Halloween and Christmas decorating efforts with creative ideas. She also went the extra mile to dress up as the Grinch at both the Pat Tillman Memorial USO and USO Bagram, posing for pictures with service members.
Through Vazquez’ help, service members in harm’s way were able to connect with the experiences they were missing back at home.
Ray Oliver | USO Guam | PAC Region
Not even a typhoon can stop Ray Oliver.
On Nov. 20, Oliver was volunteering at USO Guam while the staff was setting up for an event off base. At noon, sirens blared alerting the locals to a tropical cyclone condition readiness 2, which meant damaging winds were on the way. After quickly organizing with USO staff via cell phone, Oliver began closing procedures to shut down the center. Within an hour, the center was safely closed and USO staff had arrived to assist with other storm preparations.
On another occasion, USO Guam needed a last-minute volunteer crew to help run an aid station at the Guam International Marathon. Oliver rallied his son to help recruit 20 of his airmen buddies to arrive at 4 a.m. to pass out water and energy gels to marathoners along the course. USO Guam was the beneficiary of the race and received a $10,000 donation from the event organizers.
Oliver steps in when he’s needed while also reliably opening the center every Monday, Friday and Saturday morning. He not only arrives by 7 a.m. to tidy the center, but he cooks up fried rice, eggs and sausages for the service members, too.
“It is Ray’s approachability and integrity that inspires other volunteers at the USO,” USO Guam Programs Manager Edmund Lebita said.
Jessica Wilson | USO Stuttgart, Germany | Europe
Jessica Wilson doesn’t just complete a task. Through her organizational prowess, she creates efficient and effective methods of exceeding her goals.
When food donations were arriving at a rapid pace during the holidays, Wilson cleaned the downstairs storage area at USO Stuttgart, sorted the food and categorized it by date so it wouldn’t expire. She continues reassess the basement pantry situation each month to ensure the food items are being rotated properly.
When the center to-do lists were getting long and confusing, Wilson organized them into an all- inclusive calendar of tasks, color-coded for each department.
Despite working for Army Child and Youth Services and raising three teenage boys, Wilson still makes time to volunteer 46 hours a month at USO Stuttgart. On Halloween, she stood in the cold for three hours handing out candy. But what made it even more special was the two hours she spent on her costume beforehand, coming up with a presentation that delighted visiting children.
“Jessica is grateful for the opportunity to be a vital part of something bigger than herself,” USO Stuttgart Programs and Volunteer Coordinator Nora Regan said. “She displays this through her actions and words, which makes her even more enjoyable to be around.”
Wilson brings her versatility, humility, and unwavering dedication to every shift at USO Stuttgart.
Erica Fortin | USO Central Florida | CONUS
Erica Fortin broadens the USO’s reach.
In 2015, when the USO Central Florida center at Tampa International Airport was attempting to bolster programming, Fortin stepped in to lead every No Dough Dinner and Morale Event the center offered.
Fortin has proved to be both reliable and self-motivated, finding resources to accommodate the growing number of participants in the events. Her efforts at more than 50 morale and wellbeing programs have made an impact on more than 10,000 service members and their families.
She’s also handy with technology. When she found out computers at the center needed updating, she began assisting with technical support on a weekly basis.
“Erica has a go-getter attitude,” said Amy Phillips, USO Central Florida’s center operations and programs manager. “[She is] always willing to try whatever is asked of her with a determination to succeed. This type of tenacity should be recognized. She is resilient, compassionate and just all around amazing.”
Fortin leads by example, acting as a role model to both her four children and other military spouses.
You can send a message of support and thanks directly to service members via the USO’s Campaign to Connect. Your messages will appear on screens at USO locations around the world.
More from the USO
Mar 8, 2018
These 9 World-Famous Women are an Integral Part of USO History
In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re looking back at some of the famous females who have helped shape the history of the USO. From World War II to today, these nine women are just a few of the many who have traveled near and far to entertain service members at home and abroad.