The Fort Leonard Wood United Service Organization building is overflowing with donations of food, toiletries, face masks and more.
According to Kelly Brownfield, USO Western Missouri Regional Operations director, her staff and volunteers couldn’t be happier to sort through it all and continue their mission supporting the service members here while they remain closed to visitors due to COVID-19 mitigation protocols.
“We have been working behind the scenes since closing in March to make sure all military in quarantine or isolation have what they need during these challenging times,” Brownfield said, adding that more than 200,000 hygiene and snack items have been handed out to service members since the pandemic began. “By remaining closed, we have actually been able to increase the amount of donations we can accept.”
Brownfield said her team has different pick-up times set aside for units to assist in maintaining a hygienic environment, and they’ve also organized a drive-through style pick up for military families.
“We have craft kit pick-ups, meal pick-ups and a variety of other programs to help enhance the quality of life of our military families,” she said.
Last week, a donor sent 750,000 face masks to Fort Leonard Wood – part of a larger donation of masks to USO locations around the country. The 10 pallets of boxes were handed out to units here nearly as quickly as they were unloaded from the delivery truck.
“The face masks were distributed to service members all over Fort Leonard Wood, including the 3rd Chemical Brigade, 1st Engineer Brigade, 14th Military Police Brigade, 58th Transportation Battalion, General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital, Logistics Readiness Center, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, the NCO Academy, the Navy and Marine Corps detachments and the Air Force’s 368th Training Squadron,” Brownfield said.
Two weeks ago, 13 pallets of hygiene and snack items also arrived at the USO. They are still being sorted before they can be handed out to service members.
Doing much of that sorting is a small group of volunteers.
“Prior to March, we had an average of 50 on-going volunteers,” Brownfield said. “During this pandemic, we have had a tight-knit group of five to seven volunteers who have been lending a hand to help sort donations and carry on the USO mission. Safety is our biggest priority, so we have been keeping the numbers of volunteers small to give everyone plenty of room to distance themselves.”
One member of this “tight-knit group” is Evelyn Walters. She has been a volunteer here for about two years.
“The pandemic has changed some things in our lives, but one thing that hasn’t changed is my love for volunteering for the USO because I admire all that they stand for,” she said.
Brownfield said the current donations of snacks and hygiene products far exceed the amount they usually get and demonstrates people have noticed the changing needs of the military at this time and what the USO has been doing to help.
“We are extremely grateful, not only to the recent donors, but to all the donors and organizations that have helped us since March,” she said. “By working as a team with so many others, we have been able to continue our mission of outreach to help our military and their families.”
Anyone wishing to donate to the USO here should visit their website at www.usomissouri.org or call 573.329.2039.