By Chad Stewart

FORT RILEY, Kansas—When a massive fire tore through a Junction City, Kansas, apartment building last month, the USO here immediately stepped up to support affected service members and military families.

Within minutes of learning of the blaze, USO staff and volunteers were gathering water and food to distribute to first responders. They also started working with the Red Cross and Army Community Service on base to set up a donation site for victims.

“As soon as the fire broke out, I was probably contacted by at least five USO volunteers who were looking for ways to help,” said USO Fort Riley Center Director Jill Iwen. “I think almost every one of our volunteers asked, ‘What can we do and where do you need us?’”

The center posted a request for donations on its Facebook page. The community’s response was swift and overwhelming.

“Donations started rolling in at about 3 in the afternoon and they were still coming in a 3 in the morning,” Iwen said.

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A fire destroyed a 36-unit apartment building in Junction City, Kansas, last month, leaving several military families temporarily homeless.

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When a fire destroyed a 36-unit apartment building in Junction City, Kansas, last month, dozens of service members lost their homes and possessions. The USO at nearby Fort Riley stepped in to support them when they needed it most.

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When a fire destroyed a 36-unit apartment building in Junction City, Kansas, last month, dozens of service members lost their homes and possessions. The USO at nearby Fort Riley stepped in to support them when they needed it most.

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When a fire destroyed a 36-unit apartment building in Junction City, Kansas, last month, dozens of service members lost their homes and possessions. The USO at nearby Fort Riley stepped in to support them when they needed it most.

Programs Manager Crystal Tinkey and volunteers kept the center open around the clock and worked through the night to organize and distribute food, clothes, toiletries, diapers and toys to the victims who lost everything in the blaze.

Faythe DeMaroney-Scaletta, who has spent more than 10,000 hours volunteering at USO Fort Riley in the past five years, said she didn’t remember the USO staying open for 24 hours before.

The fire, which displaced more than 50 residents, started on an outside deck at The Bluffs apartment complex near Fort Riley and quickly spread, according to officials. No injuries were reported, but the building sustained severe fire and water damage and is considered a total loss.

Iwen said service members and military families lived in 23 of the 36 apartment units that were destroyed. She shared an anecdote about one soldier who came in with his wife to gather a few things they needed after smoke and flames ruined their home.

Donate today to help the USO support service members and their families every step of the way.

“They picked out a few baby items for their child and, as they were walking out, one of our volunteers asked if there was anything else he needed,” Iwen said. He told the volunteer he’d borrowed shoes from his first sergeant because his were ruined in the fire. The volunteer told the soldier about the USO’s cache of boots and shoes and brought him into a back room to see if anything fit.

“He picked up a pair of boots off the table and they were his size,” Iwen said. “He immediately started crying because the reality of what happened hit and the USO was there to provide everything he and his family needed, including the shoes on his feet.”

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.