Coffee Connections with USO CEO and President Dr. J.D. Crouch

Staff and Volunteers with Dr. J.D. Crouch at USO Schwab
Staff and Volunteers with Dr. J.D. Crouch at USO Schwab

Coffee Connections with USO CEO and President Dr. J.D. Crouch

by Cindy Kirkman
USO Okinawa

Kadena Air Base, OKINAWA, Japan – USO CEO and President Dr. J.D. Crouch and his wife Kristin visited Okinawa recently on a regional tour of the Pacific from Arlington, Virginia. They participated in holiday festivities and conversations at several events that focused on the military spouse while in Okinawa. Dr. Crouch leads more than 300 USO staff members and 30,000 volunteers as they strive to connect America’s service members to family, home, and country throughout their service to the nation.

“The changes in USO Okinawa since our last visit in 2015 are quite remarkable,” Dr. Crouch said during the visit. “The team did a great job modernizing our USO centers to create warm, inviting environments that are both functional and sustainable. With the center renovation nearly completed at USO Futenma and the ongoing construction of a new center at Camp Schwab, we can’t wait to return to see it all in place. Kristin and I were greeted by the warmest of welcomes at USO Foster when three children came running to us with big hugs during a holiday cookie decorating event,” Dr. Crouch said with a smile.

The average military spouse moves 8 to 12 times in the span of a 20-year military career. These frequent moves result in starting over in each new location and dealing with the struggle of meeting new people, sustaining meaningful employment, and maintaining a sense of community where they live.

The USO provides support to military spouses and has done so for many years. In 2016, the USO launched a worldwide initiative focusing on programs such as USO Military Spouse Networking and USO Coffee Connections. The USO designed the programs to strengthen and empower military spouses by connecting them to their social, professional, and community networks.

USO Coffee Connections allow spouses to relax in a comfortable setting, share advice, learn about local events, and make new friends over a cup of coffee and refreshments. Spouses come as they are and bring other military spouses with them to join in on the friendly conversation. “To be here and experience how our USO team is encouraging and empowering military spouses who are deployed overseas is a highlight of our year. The Coffee Connections program is exciting to see in action across the island.” said Dr. Crouch.

USO Kadena hosted two Coffee Connections in 2019. It is a new program to USO Kadena, but the center manager said they have intentions to host the program once a month in 2020. USO Kadena expects on average 25 participants per Coffee Connection. However, USO Kadena is not limited on space and can accommodate as many as 100 participants if the community demand is there.

“Our goal for the program is to create connections on the island through the vast number of military spouses present among all branches,” Lisa Wease, USO Kadena Center Manager, said. “Okinawa can be a great overseas tour, but spouses can really benefit from a great network of connections to make it happen. The intent is for Coffee Connection to initiate great connections through new friendships in a fun and comfortable environment.”

USO Hansen is planning to host four Coffee Connections in 2020 while USO Futenma is planning two. Although Camp Hansen and MCAS Futenma lack family housing, there are many families who live off base in the vicinity and enjoy the many benefits of the USO.  “The biggest benefit of all for coffee connections is being able to give spouses a space where they feel connected and included,” Jamie Webb, USO Hansen Center Operations Manager, said. “With the transition to Okinawa being difficult for some, USO Hansen's vision is to create a space where spouses can be themselves and learn about Okinawa and military life.”

USO Camp Foster has plans for six Coffee Connection in 2020 with many fun activities and giveaways. “There is a large military spouse community on Camp Foster,” Angela Tom, USO Foster Center Manager, said. “We hope to use this program to help build connections that foster personal and professional networks. This program will provide those men and women an opportunity to meet other spouses while participating in an activity, whether it’s resume building or a spa night!”

You can join the USO as they host a small gathering for military spouses to connect with each other while enjoying a cup of coffee. This is a great way to network, share advice, discuss local events, and meet new friends! All spouses are welcome to attend. Find out dates and times for the next USO Coffee Connection near you at OkinawaUSO.org or checking out one of the six USO Facebook pages on Okinawa. Just find the one near you.

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