Monday, July 25, 2011

Members of the Columbia Recruiting Battalion Staff Give Back

By: Kimberly Elchlepp
Columbia Recruiting Battalion
            Every Tuesday night Columbia Recruiting Battalion Staff members, Gail Pray and Derrick Newell, volunteer at the USO center located in Columbia Metropolitan airport.
            The USO’s mission is to lift the spirits of America’s Troops and their families.  Volunteers man the center which provides snacks, Internet access, phones services, television and gaming consoles for  Soldiers and their families who travel through the airport.  Everything is provided free of charge and the center is open 13 hours a day, seven days a week to include holidays.  The USO is 100% a non-profit organization, and while it is recognized by Congress and the Department of Defense, which receives no government funding for supplies or its operations.
            “Without our volunteers and donors we would not exist,” said Joanie Thresher, director of Columbia’s USO center. “Everything you see from the snacks to the structure itself is donated and we couldn’t operate without the amazing mix of volunteers that offer their time to give something back to the men and women who risk their lives for us.”
            Pray and Newell are not only members of the Columbia Recruiting Battalion staff but are also retired members of the United States Army.  Their prior service to our country is what makes volunteering with this particular organization so important.
            “You have to give back, you can’t always take in life,” said Newell.  Pray added, “I like being able to interact with the soldiers especially the new soldiers coming through on their way to basic training.  We’ve been there so we know what it is like. It’s nice to be able to talk with them and hear their stories.”
            Over 6,000 soldiers travel through the USO every month and without volunteers like Gail Pray and Derrick Newell pitching in to help, the organization could not complete its mission. 
            There are currently 116 active volunteers at the Columbia USO Center and over 100 hundred people on a waiting list. There are three three-hour shifts and one four-hour shift every day. For information on how you can volunteer or contribute to your local USO center visit

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