In late 2007 we were privileged to meet Commander McCarthy, USN Retired, Director of the Jacksonville Area USO who described her immediate mission of providing two hot meals a month, directly prior to payday, to families of our lower ranked deployed service members. She told of their financial plight of providing meals for their families at the end of their pay periods when the ‘cupboards were bare’. She further stated her goal was enlisting local financial support of this program, and asked if we, as members of the Mayport Military Officers Association of America chapter, had any helpful contacts. After assuring her that our Chapter would consider this worthy program. Thus, was borne our Chapter's USO Committee consisting of five volunteer members.
Our first mission was to inform the local community, who for the most part, were unaware that the purpose of the USO was to make a ‘Home Away from Home ‘ for our military service members and their families many of whom were away from home for the first time in their lives. Deployments for six or more months at sea or years in the war zones were highly stressful for both they and their loved ones. This was what the USO was created to support during WW ll.
Going through the phone book, we called all Service and Fraternal organizations, making appointments to brief their members on the mission of the USO and their effort to provide NO Dough Dinners (Free) for families of young deployed service members. This was so successful that the community fully funded these dinners through 2008 to the present, donating over $8000 to the Mayport USO Center, who have now provided hot meals to more than 3000 family members. These briefings also resulted in the formation of five Beach’s Veterans organizations who hold monthly BBQ’s, with all proceeds going to support these dinners. Many other organizations contribute funding, including the Kiwanis, Rotary, and Lions Clubs; The USAA; Women’s Navy League among others. Our community at work, all due to our briefings encouraging their support!
In early 2008 we received an email from a Lt. Ferris, USN Nurse, and now a chapter member, just returning from hospital duty in Kuwait. She stated their biggest need in this dry, 130 degree heat was flavored powdered drink packets to make the large quantities of hot tasteless water more palatable to stay hydrated or, suffer heat stroke / exhaustion. Once again, the chapter turned to the community coalition for help, resulting in over 57 boxes being shipped to USO Centers at Balad, Iraq; Camp Buehring, Kuwait; and Bagram, Afghanistan for distribution to our fighting troops in this continuing program..
These are just a few examples of how the community can be motivated to support a just cause by the motivated few. Building new organizational partnerships is what this nation needs in this time of economic crisis. President Obama has said that extraordinary things happen when ordinary people come together. Please search Serve.gov for like-minded service projects and see how you can partner with your neighbors.