USO Okinawa ramps up programs amid COVID19 crisis

USO Okinawa ramps up programs amid COVID19 crisis

by Cindy Kirkman
USO Okinawa

Camp Foster, OKINAWA, Japan - Today service members are in need of care, comfort, connection and support that can only be provided by an organization that is with them at every turn. The current health crisis has activated the USO to ramp up its programming to meet the current need of our military service members and their families so they can be ready for any turn of events that may occur next.

The six USO Okinawa centers are rolling out eight innovative programs to adapt to ever changing needs of the more than 50,000 men and women as well as their families, who are stationed on remote island of Okinawa. While many are restricted in their movements, most soldiers, sailors, and airmen are being incredibly responsible in their behaviors so they can be healthy and ready to serve their nation earnestly.

The USO Foster Center Manager, Angela Tom, is receiving multiple requests for support. Her staff and volunteers are quick to respond. In the last few days, they have provided snack pack for 200 people, more than 20 games and two new mobile gaming devices.

“This is the heart of our mission and what we are here for, especially during this challenging time,” Tom said.

There are six centers across the island including: Camp Schwab, Camp Hansen, Kadena Air Base, Camp Foster, MCAS Futenma, and Camp Kinser. All remain open during this essential time providing clean and spacious centers with a wide variety of amenities including large screens televisions, gaming units, WiFi, computers, movies, lounge chairs and U.S. phones. Many centers also have ping pong tables, guitars. keyboards, billiards, patios, and massage chairs.

“At USO Okinawa, our priority continues to be the health and safety of our patrons, volunteers, and staff members,” Ashley DeBerry, USO Hansen Center Manager, said. “We all continue to adhere to the Center for Disease Control guidelines regarding proper procedures. Our patrons can be assured that we take every precaution to keep them safe. While this virus impacts our programming, we are doing all we can to serve them during this time.”

USO Futenma ramped up its new programming by launching its first Netflix Movie Party on Friday both in the center and online. Patrons using this technology are able to talk about the movie via chat while watching it simultaneously. 
“We continue to serve our patrons in the centers by providing a home away from home.” Tom said. “In addition, we are happy to provide outreach services to those in other situations. We continue to strengthen our military service members by keeping them connected to family, home, and country.”

USO Okinawa launched the Readiness Through Reading program in response to leadership’s request to promote importance the Commandant’s Reading List. Cindy Kirkman, Area Programs Manager, in partnership with the Camp Foster Library, is providing dozens of books from the list to young marines and sailors. Service members who have signed up are being encouraged, not only by the USO staff but also by their command, to do the hard work of reading during this down time. Prizes are being awarded by local sponsors like Billabong. AFN is helping to promote these participations programs as well.

“The USO has provided services to members of military since its inception, and servicing those overseas has always been a critical part of accomplishing the mission and maintaining moral for those furthest away from home,” SgtMaj Mario Marquez, III MEF SgtMaj, said. “We are blessed to have the USO serving alongside us during these trying and challenging times.”

USO Kadena has stepped it up by preparing portable kits to “Refuel and Occupy the Mind (R.O.M.)” while community members may be restricted in their duties. The R.O.M. kits for include hydration, snacks and mini games.

“We want this small gesture to remind the community that we always connected,” Lisa Wease, USO Kadena Center Manager, said. “We hope these kits bring a little piece of home and happiness to service members, courtesy of the USO.”

Additional USO outreach programs include USO Kinser providing “Okinawan Cultural Deliveries” of traditional foods and beverages, USO Hansen offering “Tie Dye Shirt Kits,” and USO Kadena packaging “Magnificent Movie Kits” which include Disney movies with popcorn and sweet treats to go out with Chili’s restaurant deliveries.

“In difficult times we naturally want to keep people connected,” Danielle North, USO Kadena Center Operations Manager, said. “We want our service members to know we are keeping them at the heart of our mission.”

In addition, USO Schwab is organizing “Finally Friday Fitness Challenges.” USO vehicles pull up and staff members challenge soldiers to match each other in physical challenges. Winners receive healthy protein rich prize packs. These challenges will be taking place island wide for the next several weeks.

Follow all these fun-filled, morale boosting programs on Facebook at USO Okinawa.

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