USO Manager of Volunteer Operations Allison Nalley introduces the USO Volunteers of the Quarter for Summer 2018.
Gwendolyn Dougherty | USO Central Florida | U.S. Region
Since the inception of USO Central Florida, Gwendolyn Dougherty has been a constant, acting as a USO ambassador, volunteer trainer and program lead. The staff knows they can rely on Dougherty to provide excellent customer service and support to visitors and volunteers alike. She is never smiling more than interacting with service members and their families.
Even before the USO officially opened in Central Florida, Dougherty was an active outreach volunteer. She was one of a few volunteers who attended special events in the community as a USO representative. Fast-forward four years and Dougherty is the first face people see at a welcome home greeting, someone always ready to hand a snack to a traveler and a strong advocate of programming for families. Because she is so dependable, she is tasked with not only leading the center’s programs, but planning for them as well, which can include recruiting in-kind donations, setting a budget and guiding other volunteers. There is very little Dougherty cannot do when it comes to supporting the USO.
“I continue to witness Gwen’s impact on service members and their families daily. She has a natural way with our military and their family members, and takes time to really listen to them,” said Annamae Kacsandi, USO Central Florida’s center operations supervisor. “Gwen is the ideal USO volunteer. She has experienced and truly understands the USO mission, which makes her a strong role model when training prospective and new volunteers. She always finds a way to serve our service members, putting them first. Gwen’s attitude is cheerful, upbeat and positive, and she represents the USO wonderfully in the community.”
From programming to outreach and all center activities in between, the USO can rely on Gwen Dougherty to be there, offering her signature smile and a helping hand.
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Beth Steffen | USO Kaiserslautern | Europe Region
Beth Steffen knows how to make life easier around USO Kaiserslautern area. As a special events volunteer who also supports the USO center at Ramstein PAX and the Kaiserslautern deployment operations, she is truly there for service members and their families throughout their time in Germany. With more than 850 volunteer hours logged in the past two and a half years, the staff and volunteers at USO Kaiserslautern know they can depend on her.
Known as the “mind reader” around the USO, Steffen often anticipates what additional needs will arise during a program. To be better prepared, Beth created a special events kit with anything one could need while conducting an off-site event. This kit can be customized depending on the nature and location of the program. Steffen is highly involved with the planning and preparation of events, and often arrives early; because of this, staff often show up to outreach activities amazed at how much she’s already done before they’ve even arrived. Her involvement in the process ensures that special events run smoothly for staff, volunteers and guests.
“Beth is a dedicated and reliable volunteer. She is usually behind the scenes doing the work that most patrons do not see, but her impact is not overlooked by USO staff members,” said Anne Warnock, volunteer coordinator for USO Kaiserslautern. “She has proven by the sheer number of hours accumulated that she is motivated by, and committed to, the USO mission. She is a model of what a USO volunteer should be.”
Steffen is a big picture thinker. She provides small suggestions around the center which have a large effect on the overall operations. When she is not helping at special events, you can find her behind the welcome desk at the Ramstein PAX terminal or out in the community acting as a USO ambassador and spreading the word about the USO’s mission. USO Kaiserslautern is lucky to have an innovative and dedicated volunteer like Beth Steffen.
Army Sgt. Benjamin Watts | USO Al Asad, Iraq | Southwest Asia Region
Army Sgt. Benjamin Watts knew how important it was to have a USO open on the Al Asad Air Base in Iraq. While the USO was in the process of hiring staff to run the center, Watts ensured the center remained operational in the meantime. That was no small task. Keeping the center opened included recruiting additional volunteers, planning activities and overseeing center resources. Watts completed these tasks, as well as his own military duties, while also ensuring that the staff of a nearby USO center remained informed of the Al Asad USO center’s daily happenings and center needs.
Knowing how important communication is to service members and their families, he made sure that every phone and computer was well maintained and working. Today, this allows the men and women stationed at Al Asad to use the 24-hour center to contact their families and friends whenever they want. Over the last nine months of Watts’ volunteer tenure, all phones and computers have been functioning perfectly.
“By volunteering to be the point of contact for USO Al Asad throughout the staffing process, Sgt. Watts made it his mission to keep the center operational 24/7, when possible, to keep his fellow service members connected to their families,” said Osvaldo Lara, USO Iraq-Al Asad duty manager. “Sgt. Watts exemplifies what it means to be Volunteer of the Quarter through the time and effort he invested in making USO Al Asad the best possible place to raise morale and set the Al Asad staff up for success.”
When he’s not ensuring the center stays open and has functional equipment, Watts provides excellent customer service to USO guests. He makes everyone feel comfortable and welcome when they walk in the center, and he is well known for his charisma. Sgt. Benjamin Watts is the dedicated volunteer that USO Al Asad needed during its time of growth and he is the type of volunteer that the center is fortunate to still have.
Jeanie Thompson | USO Pohakuloa Training Center, Hawaii | Pacific Region
Jeanie Thompson, or “Ms. Brownie” as she is affectionately referred to for her baking talents, is a pivotal part of the USO experience at the USO Pohakuloa Training Center in Hawaii. You can usually find her in the kitchen making her famous brownies, which help service members feel like they are home, even when far away. Thompson wants everyone who walks through the doors of the USO to feel comfortable and welcomed, and she knows the fresh baked goods go a long way in doing that. In fact, when service members come through for another rotation, they know to go back to the USO and look for “Ms. Brownie’s” delicious treats.
Thompson is willing to go the extra mile (sometimes literally, as she will drive an hour away to pick up supplies for programs). She dedicates her time and energy to improving the USO and ensuring that it runs smoothly for volunteers and guests alike. When the center manager had to take a few weeks off, Thompson kept in constant contact, making sure supplies were well stocked, programs were planned and volunteers were available to make sure the center could stay open.
“Jeanie’s selfless service, infectious smile and upbeat attitude is easily spread among service members who visit the center,” said Jody Brissette, USO Pohakuloa center manager. “Jeanie ensures that each service member is treated to a ‘home away from home’ experience. Service members always walk away with a smile on their face after talking to Jeanie or sampling her brownies.”
Jeanie Thompson truly understands the value of the USO and the important role volunteers play in creating a warm, comforting, home-like environment for service members. If you are ever in the area, be sure to stop by and visit Ms. Brownie—she may even bake you a snack.