The smallest of moments can make so much impact.
Located on Level 1 of Terminal A is a peaceful oasis for our military travelers. This wasn’t always the case. After nearly three years of planning and groundwork, the USO Welcome Center at Orlando International Airport (OIA) joins the network of more than 160 airports around the world where American troops and their families can meet up, grab some rest and a snack before a flight, or let their children release that last bit of energy before boarding the plane.
Some estimate that nearly 10,000 service members and their families will use the center each month with an average of 700,000 active duty troops, veterans, and their families flying into or out of OIA this year. The sheer volume of visitors anticipated at the center makes its importance particularly valuable.
The USO Welcome Center, open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., features designated lounge sections sponsored by local businesses, which makes this location especially important to our Orlando community. Operated primarily by volunteers, the center boasts a fully equipped business center, snack and beverage space, gaming area sponsored by Universal Studios, a Disney World-themed family lounge, and a children’s zone that has kids swimming with Shamu from SeaWorld. Because corporate and community support is critical for the construction and ongoing operations of the center, Annamae Kacsandi, center manager, and Michelle Rogers, development manager, have their hands full organizing various campaigns and events to generate awareness about the value of the USO in addition to continuing to expand and offer additional services to service members. USO services include deployment send-offs, holiday gift drives, morale events, and Hire Heroes – an employment resource that connects transitioning service members, veterans and their spouses with job opportunities.
“Our goal is to offer the best facility to thank our active duty and retired veterans for their commitment, sacrifice and service to this country,” said Charlie Rogers, USO Central Florida Chairman of the Board. ”We want to make sure that every visitor who passes through knows they have a place to rest their head and feel special as they travel to deployments or back to their homes.”
The USO Welcome Center needs your support to provide funding and staffing for the facility. It is currently seeking to partner with local restaurants to provide hot meals and also is grateful for any donations of packaged snack foods, gift cards from big-box markets, current magazines, and children’s games and activities. The center has a monthly sponsorship program where funds donated by an organization or individual will be pooled and leveraged to fill needs for that month. A donor wall will be erected in the main lobby of the center to recognize those who have graciously donated $50K or more (6” star at $50K level and 12” star at $100K level).
Volunteering your time is another personal way to touch the lives of the USO Welcome Center visitors. The center is looking for volunteers who are 18 years and older to work four-hour minimum shifts. The most urgent staffing need is the 6-10 a.m. and 6-10 p.m. slots.
Every little bit of help means a giant thank you to the men and women who selflessly serve our country. For more information, visit https://centralflorida.uso.org/.