U.S. Southeast Celebrates USO Volunteers During National Volunteer Week, All Year Round
Although April 18 – 24, 2021 is recognized as National Volunteer Week, the USO celebrates our volunteers each and every day of the year.
USO volunteers play a critical role in strengthening America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country throughout their service to the nation.
Since 1941, millions of volunteers have given hundreds of millions of hours to support service members and their families from World War II and the Korean conflict, to Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan.
There are countless ways volunteers support the USO, but they are all unified in their dedication to our service members and their families. Whether its cooking up some homemade food for hungry service members, demonstrating how to create a craft for kids, greeting every visitor to a center, or providing a listening ear, our volunteers are the reason service members know they can count on the USO.
In 2020 alone, the Southeast Region’s 3,832 volunteers gave 117,681 hours of volunteer service, equal to an in-kind donation of 3.2 million dollars (according to the Independent Sector’s valuation of a volunteer hour).
The fidelity and commitment of our volunteers has been at the heart and soul of the USO for over 80 years, and they will take us into many decades to come of connecting service members to family, home and country.
“Our USO volunteers are the backbone of our organization. They volunteer out of their kindness of their hearts and are dedicated to strengthening our service members and their families through their commitment to our centers and programs,” said Jim Whaley, Regional President, USO Southeast. “We can’t thank our USO volunteers enough. Without them, our centers and programs would not be able to serve our nation’s heroes and their families.”
Here’s a look at some of the remarkable and dedicated volunteers who support our service members and their families throughout the U.S. Southeast.
Fort Campbell and Nashville
Meet Latisha “Tish” Hampton, the USO Southeast Volunteer of the Quarter for quarter one of 2021. Tish has been a volunteer with USO Fort Campbell since May 2019. Since she started, she has been a key member of the USO Fort Campbell team.
As soon as the USO Fort Campbell center reopened (to a limited capacity), Tish was one of the first volunteers to sign up and immediately took charge of operating the center, making sure that the entire center is kept clean per COVID-19 safety protocols.
Her positive attitude and caring demeanor provide comfort to young soldiers new to the Army and experiencing their first duty station at Fort Campbell. She assists them with whatever they may need and informs them of the services that are available to them at USO Fort Campbell.
Central Florida USO
Meet Gwen Dougherty. She has been volunteering as part of the Orlando Int'l Airport USO team since before it even opened in 2014 and has logged over 1,400 total volunteer hours. In the summer of 2018, Gwen was recognized nationally as the USO Volunteer of the Quarter and received the Presidential Volunteer Service Award.
As a Program Lead Volunteer, Gwen is instrumental to the Central Florida USO’s support of service members on the east coast of Florida - from Cape Canaveral all the way down to Miami. She assembles and executes an incredible amount of programming such as a Back to School Drive, Tango Mike Drops, Family Activity Bags, Welcome Home Greetings and more. Her creativity and attention to detail keep us growing and exceeding expectations and she puts a smile on the face of every service member she meets
Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield (HAAF)
At USO Fort Stewart/HAAF, Maria Ocasio has been volunteering since September 2020 and has accumulated over 80 volunteer hours supporting service members and their families. Maria is known for her cheerful disposition, abundance of energy, and eagerness to support the USO’s mission of connecting service members to family, home and country.
Maria has an optimistic, can-do attitude for all the tasks that need to be accomplished. It doesn’t matter if there are lunches to be bagged, dishes to be washed, or trash bins to be emptied, Maria steps up and gets it done. She sets the example for other volunteers to follow.
“Maria is the warm, friendly presence that every center needs. She makes every event enjoyable and takes a load off my plate. I don’t worry about the little details when she’s around because I know she’s got it covered,” said Courtney Due, Center Operations and Program Manager, USO Fort Stewart/HAAF.
At USO Georgia, USO Volunteers on duty are always ready to welcome and assist the hundreds of thousands of service members and their families who travel through Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) USO Center each year.
Meet Sider Atterberry. Born in Hattiesburg, Miss., she has lived on the gulf coast for the last nine years. She works full time as a mental health technician in a behavioral health hospital where she specializes in geriatric care for elders with dementia.
Sider began volunteering with USO Gulf Coast in 2019 for a senior project required for graduation but soon realized she enjoyed giving back to those who are sacrificing so much for her country. Sider is the proud mother of two sons ages 24 and 19. Her youngest recently joined the U.S. Navy adding to her desire to continue volunteering with the USO.
Hampton Roads and Central Virginia
Further up north in Virginia you will find, Sol Rosita DePerio, who volunteers at USO Norfolk International Airport (ORF) and was selected as 2020 Hampton Roads and Central Virginia Volunteer of the Year.
Sol, an active duty Navy Petty Officer, volunteered 289 hours in 2020 through volunteering 4-5 shifts per week, usually the evening or midnight shifts. Sol helped to close the ORF Center when COVID-19 hit and was there to help re-open the center. She helped to sanitize, hang regulatory posters, move furniture, and stock the space for the new norm.
Sol personally recruited eight new volunteers from her ship and trained a total of 15 new volunteers on the ins and outs of the center. A hero on and off her ship, we are grateful for Sol and all she does to support the USO’s Mission.
At USO Jacksonville, you will find Nancy Reedy always willing to serve. Whether it is behind the desk supporting our troops or helping to re-open the Jacksonville International Airport (JIA) USO center once COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, she stepped up to support our service members and their families.
Reedy has been volunteering with the USO for the past 10 years. She volunteers as a way of giving back to the military and the USO for our support during her years of service.
Meet Tiwanda Griffin-Greer, a volunteer at the USO center on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina. In 2020, Griffin-Greer donated 1,299 hours of her time and was selected as the 2020 USO East/Southeast Volunteer of the Year.
A retired Air Force First Sergeant and survivor of the shooting at Lackland Air Force Base in 2016, Griffin-Greer’s resiliency inspires others. She actively mentors many volunteers and service members. She offers career guidance and other resources for schools, cross training, financial literacy and more.
Meet Jimmy Ogilbee. He has been volunteering at the Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola USO center since he moved to Pensacola in October 2019, and has logged in well over 350 volunteer hours, and was named Volunteer of the Quarter for USO NAS Pensacola twice.
Jimmy loves talking with and supporting service members, his fellow volunteers, and staff members in the center over a hot cup of coffee or a sweet treat.
When you walk up to the USO check-in desk, you can always count on Jimmy to greet you with a warm smile under his mask and an air high-five.
South Carolina In South Carolina, USO volunteers are celebrated daily with thank you notes, and messages from service members. In 2020 alone, over 135 volunteers gave 7,179.5 hours of volunteer service, supporting serve members and their families at McCrady Training Center, Fort Jackson, Columbia Metropolitan Airport and National Guard locations throughout South Carolina.
To learn about becoming a volunteer, visit volunteers.uso.org.
USO Staffers Sarah Kemp and Betsy McWhirt contributed to this article.
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