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NEWS | June 21, 2017

USO centers thrive through volunteer efforts

By Staff Sgt. Teresa J. Cleveland 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

At Joint Base Langley-Eustis, the United Service Organizations, Inc. centers play a major role in supporting U.S. service members by providing morale events, a place to relax and a break from the stressors they may be facing. The backbone of these centers are the men and women who volunteer their time to keep them operational.

Across the eight USO centers in the Hampton Roads area, the facilities offer snacks and beverages, gaming consoles, pool tables, reading material and many other amenities.

While each location offers many amenities, the USOs at JBLE provide a little bit more. At the Fort Eustis center, licensed therapy dogs visit every Tuesday to increase morale, while at the Langley Air Force Base USO, Sadie, a one-year-old Golden Retriever pet of Hannah Hendricks, Hampton Roads USO volunteer and special programs coordinator, “volunteers” to spend several days each week in the center.

Each location caters to a slightly different group, with primary use at Fort Eustis being Advanced Individual Training students, and Langley AFB hosting mostly Airmen Leadership School students. Both centers are also utilized by other service members, retirees, spouses and dependents.

The Fort Eustis USO hosts many events throughout the year supported by a large group of volunteers, including dances, children’s events, Paint ‘N’ Sip nights, holiday luncheons and the Adopt-A-Soldier program at Thanksgiving.

The Langley USO hopes to host similar events across the installation in the future for service members, spouses and children, as they work to grow their volunteer base following a two-year closure for remodeling. 

“Since many people didn’t know we reopened, we started from scratch with no volunteers so it was difficult,” said Hendricks. “We’re finally starting to get a fuller schedule, but we’re always in need of more volunteers.”

For the USO centers at JBLE, operating on a consistent basis relies on the volunteers who run the centers daily.

“Without the volunteers, a lot of the USO centers wouldn’t be open as often or as many hours as they are,” said Hendricks. “Each location has little, to no, on-site paid staff so our volunteers are very important to us and the military personnel who utilize the centers.”

Volunteers include prior military, retirees, spouses, dependents and active duty service members who volunteer for a variety of reasons. Kylie Wathen, whose husband, Staff Sgt. John Wathen, is currently deployed with the 192nd Fighter Wing, has volunteered for both JBLE USO centers.

“It’s a great way to give back to the troops who give so much,” said Wathen. “I’m happy to be a part of something that started in World War II and has carried forward to support the troops at home and abroad.”

The USO volunteers perform a variety of duties, such as cleaning and restocking snacks however, the most important duty is to greet service members as they enter the facility.

“A simple ‘hello’ and a smile could make a world of difference to someone who has had a rough start to their day and is looking for a place to sit back, relax and regroup,” said Hendricks. “The volunteers who are in the centers every day have the potential to turn someone’s day around, though they might not always recognize it.”

Volunteer shifts at each location range from two hours to four hours. The Fort Eustis USO is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., every day. The Langley USO is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

To volunteer at the Fort Eustis USO, call (757) 878-2415. Contact the Langley USO at (757) 289-5928. Applications for volunteering can also be completed at