News: Fort Hood USO plans plenty of family fun in 2013
Story by Sgt. Ken Scar
FORT HOOD,Texas – The Fort Hood chapter of the United Service Organizations has great things planned for the Great Place in 2013.
“USO Fort Hood continually looks at the greater picture to fill gaps where we think we can bring flavor to the installation,” said Robin Crouse, director of the Fort Hood USO. “We put a lot of thought and purpose behind what’s not being done. How can the USO change to meet the needs of an ever-changing Army and its families?”
Fort Hood families can look forward to many of the same popular events that the USO has sponsored in recent years, as well as several new pilot programs, said Crouse, speaking from her well-used office in the nondescript little building next to the Old Post Chapel that serves as the Fort Hood USO headquarters.
Founded in 1941 as a response to a request from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the USO is a nonprofit organization dedicated to lifting the spirits of America’s troops and their families.
“We’re here to serve,” said Crouse. “We represent millions of Americans who appreciate the sacrifices our soldiers and families make day-to-day so we can live in the best nation in the world. It’s a big responsibility.”
This year, the Fort Hood USO, its 101 registered volunteers, and anyone else who would like to volunteer, will continue to sponsor crowd-pleasing events from years past, like “Movies on the Lawn.”
“Movies on the Lawn is a great program,” said Crouse. “It’s an April to October time frame, and units host us on their own lawn, or we go to a housing area or community center and show a G-rated family movie that aligns with the Army family covenant. We provide free snacks, and we have costumed superheroes and princesses show up to interact with the children.”
It’s been their most popular program, she said, with more than 750 people attending some of the shows.
“When the superheroes come out, they get mobbed. The kids go wild,” she said, smiling. “We spent a lot of money on the costumes, but the return of investment has been fabulous.”
Another popular program that will continue is USO story time.
“About a year and a half ago we started USO story time, which is an early literacy workshop geared toward preschoolers and their parents,” said Isabel Hubbard, the Fort Hood USO programs manager.
Community leaders and USO volunteers read a book to the children, after which craft times are arranged centered around themes from the book that was read.
“It usually happens in the morning, and we serve a healthy breakfast to the kids, and coffee for the parents to help them wake up,” said Hubbard, chuckling. “We try to get the whole family involved.”
“We work on positive imaging, positive messaging, and crafts that improve motor skills and eye coordination,” said Crouse.
Another literacy-based program sponsored by the USO is the United Through Reading program, where a soldier can go into a USO and be videotaped reading a book.
“We burn that to a DVD, we take that DVD and put it with the book and a note from you, and send it to your loved ones, for free,” said Hubbard. “It’s to keep you connected even though you’re physically separated.
“[It] is a program that’s hosted around the world,” said Crouse. “It allows a soldier to pick a book and read it to his children as if they were there. I’d like people to know that it’s not just for deployed soldiers. If you have children in a different state, in whatever circumstance that may be - a younger sibling, nieces and nephews – separation is separation. Come here for those momentous times in life – birthdays, graduations, holidays. All it costs is your time.”
“A program that we piloted last year was family game night,” said Crouse.
“It’s family night unplugged,” laughed Hubbard. “We have board games for every age group. Families can reserve the table, and the games, and we serve them dinner. We bring everything – all they have to do is show up.”
“We try to keep it intimate,” said Crouse. “So we’ve had waiting lists both times we’ve offered it.”
In addition to the past programs, there are several pilot programs that both ladies were enthusiastic to share.
“I think this year’s pilot programs will be well received,” said Crouse. “This year we’re starting Date Night, for married couples with no children. We’re going to set up tables for two here, put up our movie screen, and show classic black and white love stories, like ‘Casablanca’, and serve dinner under the Texas stars.”
“We’re bringing back the Mother’s Day princess breakfast and the Father’s Day superhero breakfast,” said Hubbard. “Those seats will be given away by lottery through our Facebook page.”
“We’re also going to partner with Fort Hood family housing and have a teen dance,” said Crouse.
All of these events take a lot of planning, and a lot of work, said Crouse – but that’s what the USO is here for.
“If there’s any message that we give, it’s that we’re trying to meet the needs of the changing Army and keep our family values very close to heart, because they’re so easy to be lost,” she said.
Crouse and Hubbard were both military wives before becoming involved with the USO.
“We try to pass our experience on to the young spouses,” said Hubbard.
“I’ve been with the USO a long time,” said Crouse. “I’ve seen where, in the beginning, wives have been very, very busy – taking care of FRG and fueling those units, and they get tired. Sometimes they need to be nurtured, and they need to know that someone is there for them, and the USO is.”
Crouse quoted the USO mission statement to drive home her point: “We are very soldier first, but we lift the spirits of America’s troops and their families.”
Crouse and Hubbard both encourage anyone who’d like to give back to the U.S. Military family to volunteer at the USO.
For information about participating in any of the programs mentioned in this article, and all the other USO programs, go to the USO Facebook page and “like” it.