USO Staff Spotlight – Maria Paige, USO Schwab Center Manager

Photo by USO Okinawa
Photo by USO Okinawa

USO Staff Spotlight – Maria Paige, USO Schwab Center Manager

by Cindy Kirkman
USO Okinawa

Maria Paige, USO Schwab Center Manager, humbly steps into the spotlight after being named 2022 Armed Forces Insurance Camp Schwab Spouse of the Year. Her sacrificial dedication to her family, profession, academic growth, community, and physical fitness are examples of what a life lived without boundaries looks like.

“Change is inevitable, especially in the military lifestyle,” Paige said. “As a member of my military community, I find joy in helping service members and families embrace the changes as they come and finding ways to make a positive impact.”

Being a Navy child and Marine spouse have been a driving force for Maria’s career in serving military families. Paige is married to MSgt Gordon Paige and has two daughters, Amaya and Aria. Her family is no stranger to military life, experiencing seven deployments and five permanent change of stations (PCS) moves.

“Growing up the daughter of a U.S. Navy Corpsman, I saw firsthand what it was like to be a military spouse by watching my mother,” Paige said. “I also grew to learn the level of sacrifice my parents made to provide stability and family values for me and my sisters. Given my life as a military child and having parents who worked in public service, it came naturally for me to do so as well.”

In 2021, the USO Schwab center supported over 75,000 service members and their families in Okinawa by offering unique programs and services to meet their needs. Of the programs and services offered at USO Schwab, significant growth was made this past year in their volunteer program, Operation Birthday Cake program, unit support program, and servicing outreach at neighboring installations, Camp Gonzalves and Naval Base White Beach.

“Maria brings a vast amount of experience and passion to USO Camp Schwab,” USO Okinawa Area Director Phil VanEtten said. “Since her arrival to the center, we could clearly see the changes she made to center operations and outreach programs.  Her leadership style inspires those around her whether patrons, center staff or volunteers. USO Okinawa and the community are certainly fortunate to have her leading the center.”

Paige said her most rewarding experience at the USO has been empowering her team of staff and volunteers to learn new skills and demonstrate their strengths. An example of this was when a volunteer asked for an opportunity to emcee an event and Paige found an opportunity for the volunteer to do so at the Hanami Dance, a family program.

“I mentioned to Maria that I wanted to emcee,” Lance Corporal Caleb Coleman, from Peoria, Illinois. “I enjoyed participating in the Hanami Dance where parents and their kids were able to dance and sing along to their favorite Disney songs. Volunteering is improving my ability to communicate, test my speaking and human interaction skills as well. My quality of life is improving as it is giving me a path to be productive.”

When being awarded 2022 Armed Forces Insurance Camp Schwab Spouse of the Year, Paige was recognized for establishing various programs to support military children and families. Even more recently, she became the founder and executive director for Network for Exceptional Military Families. She helps assess the needs within the exceptional family member community and supports a team in the development of programs and fundraising. Since establishing in 2020, the organization has been classified as a 501c3 within the state of California and has supported nearly 200 military families.

Paige has worked and volunteered within the military community for over 20 years and even began working at age 15 at the local commissary. Her volunteerism dates back to her completion of Leadership Education Seminar of Camp Pendleton’s (LES) training back in 2009, where she then went on to serve as a volunteer manager for a total of 13 years and counting. Paige currently volunteers for Okinawa Leadership Seminar, is a member of the Military Spouse U.S. Chamber of Commerce, her local 4th Marine Regiment Spouses Group, and Stroller Warriors Okinawa.

With degrees in social sciences, human services, and public administration, Maria desires to continue her efforts in serving her community by offering support to those in need. As she strives to enhance her service efforts, Paige is currently working towards a doctorate’s degree in public administration & policy, which she believes will provide her with further knowledge to effectively assess needs in the military community and further enhance her leadership skills.

In her free time, Paige runs in local races, bakes desserts for friends and family, enjoys the beach with her family, and loves to travel.

Paige encourages fellow spouses and members of the military community to give back through volunteerism. The USO Schwab team is actively seeking volunteers to assist with preparing meals for service members and providing support in their center. You can join the USO Schwab team and any of our USO Okinawa teams here

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