200406-A-SO154-017.JPGSgt. 1st Class Michael Soles, Fort Jackson’s G5 non-commissioned officer in charge, and Supply Specialist Mark Hall load a pallet of travel kits April 6. The kits were donated to Fort Jackson trainees and activated South Carolina National Guards units by the South Carolina USO. 'We are paying it forward to the men and women that need it most,' said Joanie Thresher, executive director of the South Carolina USO. (Photo by Ms. Alexandra Shea, Fort Jackson Leader)

by Ms. Alexandra Shea, Fort Jackson Leader

As South Carolina continues to stay at home to battle the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the local USO office has stepped forward to help by donating more than 1,500 travel kits to Fort Jackson trainees and activated National Guard units.

“We are grateful to be able to support Fort Jackson trainees with some personal care items,” said Katie Kennedy, senior operations and programs manager for the South Carolina USO. “We are donating about 600 travel kits to Fort Jackson.”

Each kit contains a travel-sized toothbrush, deodorant, toothpaste, nail clippers and much needed hand lotion with aloe vera for alleviate chapped hands from frequent hand washing and sanitizer use.

“Gift shops in the airport asked customers to donate items to the USO to give to service members throughout South Carolina,” Kennedy said.

Gift shop customers are offered an opportunity to purchase small items and snacks and place the items in the basket. Each item is collected by USO volunteers and staff members who group like items and prepare them for delivery to Soldiers of every branch.

Some items are shipped overseas to deployed service members, but in times of need such as the battle against COVID-19, these items are distributed to military service members and their Families stateside.

“I know it will make trainees happy to see all the people that care,” said 1st Lt. Sofie Bradigan, a G-4 operations officer assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Army Training Center. They will see not just the Army, but “people coming in to make life easier for trainees during a scary time. I think it’s awesome.”

In addition to the travel kits, the USO also donated feminine hygiene products for female Soldiers. “We are paying it forward,” said Joanie Thresher, executive director of the South Carolina USO. The USO is here to serve and so are our donors. It makes us happy knowing (donations) are going into the hands of the men and women who need them most.”

Thresher explained how requests have been pouring in from across the state as more National Guard units are being activated to join the battle against the virus and support local communities with distribution of essential medical supplies.

Thresher said South Carolina supplies are running low with the large military population located within the state. She said supplies are being shipped from states with less demand to continue the distribution of supplies such as activity books, snacks and the personal travel packs.

“We are getting requests from family members that have been laid off,” Thresher said. “Any way that we can pay-it-forward” will ease a little of that tension and stress.”

“We are the bridge that takes military and civilians and puts them together.” she added.“There is a lot of heart and emotion involved knowing these little things are making a huge difference. It makes me so proud.”