By: Brian Wellner
It’s the first USO center in Illinois outside Chicago, which has five, and the only one that serves Iowa’s active service personnel and their families.
“Now, there’s a chance for military families to come and utilize a space to get away and relax,” said Jackie Inman, the Arsenal center director.
She previously served as a family readiness group leader for Iowa Army National Guard units and saw the need for USO services in the Quad-Cities. Her son serves in the Iowa Army National Guard and she has longed for a center like this to serve Iowa and Illinois active service members outside the Chicago area.
USO centers provide programs and services for military personnel and their families from send-offs to homecomings. The new, 2,000-square-foot space on the Arsenal features a meeting space and lounge, reading library and resource center, computer lab with free Wi-Fi, cable TV and gaming console, snacks and refreshments and a children’s play area.
U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., helped kick off the opening of the USO center.
“As someone who comes from a family of those who have served in wartime and peacetime and someone who considers it a point of pride to have former military members on my staff, I will never lose sight of the importance of supporting those who serve,” she said.
The facility was done in a partnership with Army Community Services and Hooah! Quad-Cities, two more organizations that support local military personnel and their families with outreach programs and resources.
“Here we can take care of our troops and their families, and we’re always looking for volunteers,” Tere Pouch of ACS said.
Richard Straub volunteers at the center and said he enjoys meeting active service personnel and hearing their stories.
“This is the least I can do for the sacrifices they make,” Straub said.
He said his son serves in the military, and whenever he travels, he uses USO centers around the country.
Alison Ruble, president of USO of Illinois, a nonprofit agency providing support for U.S. troops and their families, said she’s “beyond ecstatic” about the new center.
“We really want to be a home away from home,” Ruble said.
By: Kylen Mills
The Rock Island Arsenal adds a “home away from home” to their facilities today.
The USO Rock Island Center is opening a 2000 square foot space for active duty and their families to relax.
The lounge type space offers snacks, cable TV, videogames, a computer lab with Wifi, books and board games.
Director Jackie Insman says there was no recreation space like this on the arsenal. All she had was a small USO office, but that just wasn’t enough to meet the needs of the 800 active service members at the arsenal.
“In my office I had snacks and refreshments and it doesn’t seem like a lot but I had 355 service members come and see me just in my office. So there is a need for a bigger space.”
The plan is to have the center open from 8 to 4:30PM daily to all active service members from the base and surrounding areas. There is an open house today from 12:00pm to 5:30pm.
By Ryan Haggerty, Chicago Tribune reporter
Chicago Tribune, 1-13-13
Lillie Council and Leah Gipson sat at a small table at Navy Pier’s USO office Saturday with stacks of blank postcards and stationery piled between them.
They put pen to paper and wrote notes, one by one, to American troops serving overseas, doing their part to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. by participating in the National Day of Service that precedes the federal holiday recognizing him Monday.
“Sometimes when you’re away from home, you just need that little bit of comfort from home, even if it’s from a stranger,” said Council, who said she served in the Army for six years in the 1980s.
“I think it just makes someone’s day to know they’re appreciated and they’re thought of,” she said.
Council and Gipson joined volunteers across the country Saturday — including President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama — who donated their time and effort to more than 2,000 public service projects as part of the National Day of Service.
The King holiday has long included a call for Americans to volunteer. But Obama gave the movement new life before his first inauguration four years ago, when he encouraged Americans to honor King’s legacy through service.
He and his wife renewed that call this year as they prepared for Obama’s public inauguration ceremony Monday.
More than 60 volunteer events were scheduled in the Chicago area Saturday, from the USO letter-writing campaign to a blood drive in Bolingbrook and a project in Grayslake to gather laundry detergent and bagged lunches for people staying at a Lake County homeless shelter.
At the USO event, donated candy, granola bars and trail mix filled a table. More than 100 people were expected to donate goods or write letters to troops by the end of the day, said Chris Miller, director of center operations and volunteer services for the USO of Illinois.
Gipson said she decided to write letters to troops after reflecting on the sacrifices her relatives made. Her father served in the Army in Vietnam, and her brother served in the Marine Corps in Iraq, she said.
“When I’m writing these letters, I picture my dad, I picture my brother, and I think about what they would have needed to hear while they were away from their families and away from home,” Gipson said.
In the South Loop neighborhood, about two dozen volunteers scrubbed doors, door frames and window sills at The Studios, a 170-unit affordable housing building at East 18th Street and South Wabash Avenue.
The volunteers cleaned every door in the building so quickly that they soon began spreading out in search of other areas that needed sprucing up.
“I love it,” said Maggie McGuire, a member of Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church who helped organize the project. “I’m doing it because I believe that decent, affordable housing is a basic right.”
Laura Shiplet, another church member, said that volunteering at The Studios made her feel like she’s keeping King’s legacy alive.
“I want to be part of his dream, especially this weekend,” Shiplet said, a bucket of soapy water at her feet. “It’s like a big celebration of Martin Luther King’s life.”
The HOME&AWAY campaign, now in its fourth year, highlights how the USO of Illinois and Boeing are committed to helping service members and their military families thrive. Our nation’s armed forces and their families make many sacrifices to protect our freedoms. While we support their efforts at home and away, we may overlook the opportunity to say thank you, or be able to find a way to make a tangible difference. Join Boeing, in supporting the USO of Illinois and the work they do to help local military and their families.
Vote here for your favorite Home & Away video for your chance to win a VIP Chicago sports experience from Boeing with two of your favorite teams. Help someone you know. Support the USO.
Making Lifelong Connections: The heartwarming story of a soldier reconnecting with a childhood friend while stationed overseas in Japan, and asking for her hand in marriage once returning to Illinois.
From Military Police to Military Mom: After serving in Iraq as a member of the military police, Julie returned home to Illinois where she learned to reconnect with both her family and her community through the help she found at USO Rock Island.
The USO’s 12th Man: Watch pro athlete Charles Tillman recount his experiences growing up as the son of a military sergeant, and his journeys abroad where he lent his support to deployed troops working with the USO of Illinois.
TRACEY MYERS, Blackhawks Insider
Blackhawks president John McDonough was aware of where he could’ve been on Saturday night, when he was honored at the USO of Illinois Star-Spangled Salute.
“I thought tonight, with our Blackhawks schedule, it might be a bit of a conflict. Right now, probably be toward the end of the first period,” McDonough told the audience on the night the Blackhawks were supposed to open their 2012-13 season against the Columbus Blue Jackets. “But I’m certainly standing in a very enviable position.”
McDonough was presented the USA Salute to Leadership Award at this year’s Salute, which was held at the Navy Pier’s grand ballroom. The award is given to a civic or community leader in special recognition for his or her distinguished personal and professional efforts in the support of the U.S. Armed Forces. The Blackhawks have done much to honor the military, including honoring one active duty military member and one retired service member during the national anthem.
“It’s great recognition for the Blackhawks,” McDonough said prior to the ceremony. “Every night, 21,000 people stand and applaud, and they, the players and the coaches recognize what (the military’s) contributions have been. It’s very heartwarming. It’s become a trend across the league. But at the United Center, with everybody from the start of the game with the national anthem, it’s a very huge part of our game presentation and very, very meaningful.”
McDonough was humbled by the evening.
“I’m surrounded by heroes and leaders tonight that are far more deserving than I,” he told the audience. “The freedom we enjoy is not an entitlement, but a commitment from our armed forces. Every night in the United Cente, we’re guaranteed at least one heartfelt standing ovation. It’s not necessarily for a brilliant save or an overtime goal. (It’s) the appreciation of 21,000 people, including every member of both teams, acknowledging the presence of greatness and true dedication to our military.”
White Sox players Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton have lunch with members of the military at U.S. Cellular Field.
Over the past two months in between training, classes and their various other duties at Great Lakes Naval Station, three young sailors volunteered their time to hand paint an original mural featuring famous cartoon characters in the USO Center Great Lakes Kids Room. Each designed their own wall, choosing to paint their favorite characters from their childhood.
FC3 Avery Wilson said, “I wanted to give kids something to look at from my generation of Looney Tunes.” The USO Center at Great Lakes is a “home away from home” for sailors and their families stationed in or around Great Lakes. Wilson, originally from Norfolk, VA, who has been at Great Lakes for 18 months says “I love the USO, it’s my escape.”
FCSN Conner Stevens agreed by saying, “The USO takes the stress off of being on base.” A fan of Disney films, Stevens painted a mural of his favorite characters from The Lion King and Aladdin films. “I’ve always liked to draw and I wanted to help out,” said Stevens. Originally from the small town Magalia, California, Stevens has spent 16 months at Great Lakes Naval Station.
The idea to update the USO Great Lakes Kids Room came from FCSN Kori Hopkins as a way to give back to the USO. Having been at Great Lakes for 17 months, Hopkins stated, “I love all the different things the USO offers. I love the Girl Scout Cookies, the pool tables and all the other free things. Here you don’t have to stress.” Hopkins painted a unique mural of characters from her favorite Disney films and Dr. Seuss books she read as a child.
USO Great Lakes is a multifaceted complex where service members can enjoy rest, relaxation and recreation. The USO Great Lakes Kids Room is a special place for families to spend time together. It is a place where kids can make arts & crafts, play games, jam with their favorite musical instrument, watch movie or even put on a puppet show.
The USO of Illinois wishes to thank Avery, Conner and Kori for making the USO Great Lakes Kids Room so special.
USO Great Lakes Kids Room
The USO (United Service Organizations) of Illinois is brought the USO Carnival to the Rock Island Arsenal on July 7th as part of the 150th Anniversary Celebration of the Arsenal. Sponsored by PepsiCo, the USO Carnival brought Quad Cities military and civilian families together in support of the U.S. Armed Forces and the Arsenal.