SPC Derin Vrana | SWA Region: USO Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan
Behind the grit and determination of a tough soldier who makes daily, dangerous patrols outside his base at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, is a vibrant, charming USO volunteer who seems to bring everyone he meets into his circle.
SPC Derin Vrana began volunteering with the USO soon after arriving at his duty station in August of 2013 and quickly amassed 450 service hours at the center. He has an uncanny ability to engage with people, regardless of rank or background, to make them feel like part of the USO family. He is one of those dream volunteers who comes in when he is available, any time of the day or night, to ensure the center is running like clockwork. Sometimes his volunteer stints occur right after a tiring, daily patrol. At other times, he stays late to close down the center, only to head back out on patrol a few hours later.
His dedication to customer service is unmatched. His pleasant manner, combined with his in depth knowledge of the center operations, makes all USO visitors feel special and well-attended. His easy and friendly manner makes him an excellent recruiter. Once he's brought new volunteers in the door, he serves as a lead trainer, conducting orientation classes so they can deliver the same, high-quality customer service that has become his trademark.
SPC Vrana does everything from welcoming visitors and attending to their every need to overseeing events such as Waffle Sunday, Kinect Dance, and Texas Hold 'Em. He is so attentive to service and operational protocols that he requires little to no supervision and is fully capable of running the center if staff are required elsewhere.
Though not every visitor coming through the doors of USO Camp Leatherneck may remember his name, they will always remember SPC Derin Vrana's vibrant energy and gracious manner that ensured his fellow troops had the great feeling of being "home away from home" at the USO.
Donna Pate | PAC Region: USO Guam
If you find your stomach grumbling early in the morning, chances are good if you stop by USO Guam, Donna Pate will be there making breakfast favorites such as chili and rice, homemade pancakes, biscuits and gravy, or French toast. Her self-starter-attitude, along with her willingness to serve on a hard-to-fill early morning shift, have earned her the title of USO Pacific’s Volunteer of the Quarter Winter 2014.
Donna has initiated many projects to benefit the center. She’s defrosted and cleaned the deep freezer and started a coupon clipping book for volunteers to sort, cut out, and organize coupons for the center and military families. Donna and former Volunteer of the Quarter, Claudette McGhee, created a USO Guam newsletter. Additionally, Donna picks up the center’s groceries twice a week, carting several loads. Her volunteer spirit knows no bounds. On Thanksgiving and Christmas, Donna and her family delivered boxed meals to those on duty at the Naval Hospital. Everyone from the gate guards to the hospital staff received a warm meal.
Donna was an integral member of the 9th Annual Run for Our Heroes event including manning the registration desk for 8 hours a day for the 2 days before the race and helping organize and execute the 2K portion.
“The impact Donna has had on our Run for Our Heroes event is evident in the smiles of the children who complete the 2K portion,” said USO Guam Center Manager, Vic Tano.
Although Donna’s family is preparing for a PCS (permanent change of station) this summer, she has already recruited volunteers to replace her shifts and donation pick-ups. Wherever her family moves next, we know she’ll be a welcoming face to our troops and their families.
Geraldin “Thibaut” Lenkoue | EUR Region: USO Warrior Center
It takes a special personality to work with wounded, ill, and injured troops. For many individuals, the emotional burden is just too great—but not Geraldin “Thibaut” Lenkoue, a full time lab technician at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC). He can best be described as warm, caring, sweet, and constantly wearing a smile.
He brings this upbeat personality to his volunteer service at the USO Warrior Center in Germany where he volunteered more than 1,220 hours in 2013 alone. One might think that after working with patients all day long in his paid job, Thibaut might want to take a break. But he cheerfully walks from the LRMC over to the Warrior Center to continue sharing his smile with many of the very patients he’s served at the hospital.
Thibaut is one of those individuals who really pays attention to others. He remembers names. He listens to what visitors want and steers them towards the best USO program offering. He knows the intricate workings of the center and can run it seamlessly without supervision by other staff or volunteers.
He’s also been known to do the heavy lifting – literally – with the same good cheer as he serves guests. When a delivery is made from the warehouse, Thibaut unloads the truck and stores the items away, assuring that inventory is well organized and readily available to the troops. He monitors supplies and makes recommendations when the stores need to be replenished.
He is equally comfortable assisting with large scale special events such as visits by Stihl Timbersports and author Stephen King. He’s served troops during the Semper Fi Fund Christmas Eve dinner, NASCAR Hangout, Thanksgiving and pizza nights. He’s also been a strong proponent of the United Through Reading's Military Program.
Thibaut Lenkoue is there for our wounded, ill and injured troops at every step along the way, from his day job at the LRMC to his volunteer work at the USO Warrior Center. His dedication to others comes from the heart, and the evidence of this shows on the happy faces of those he serves.
Danelle Butzin | CONUS Region: USO Colorado Springs
Whether you are a two-star general attending a special event, or a private first class preparing to deploy, USO Colorado Springs volunteer Danelle Butzin, will make sure you feel welcomed and at home.
In just 21 months Danelle has donated nearly 1,000 volunteer hours at the USO. Due to her ability to lead with compassion and optimism, Danelle has taken on the role of team leader and USO Ambassador. Other volunteers request to work on her shift because they know they will not only be treated well, but taught well too.
Danelle enjoyed greeting guests attending the Warrior Games during a near-marathon shift from 0900 to midnight! She so impressed two generals’ wives with her friendly greeting and helpful attitude that they raved about her to USO CEO and President, Sloan Gibson, who was attending the games. In recognition of her efforts, Mr. Gibson presented Danelle with a USO coin for outstanding service.
When she’s not helping to organize volunteers for Super Bowl parties, being mayor of her housing area, or working her usual twice weekly shift, Danelle is busy promoting the United Through Reading's Military Program. Danelle has been so successful in running the United Through Reading's Military Program that the center needed to purchase a second camcorder to accommodate the increase in demand.
“Our readings have increased immensely since she has taken over the program. The last reading was for a deploying unit. She stayed until after 1:00 a.m. to make sure all the soldiers that needed to do the tapings were accommodated,” said USO Colorado Springs Programs Manager, Linda Lorenzana.
Danelle’s leadership is sure to foster more volunteers in her likeness at USO Colorado Springs for years to come.