By M.L. Doyle, Fort Meade Public Affairs Office
USO offers ‘Drive Thru’ Fun
The Fort Meade USO Center has always been known for offering events and giveaways that demonstrate gratitude for the service of active duty service members and their families here.
On Sat, Nov. 7, the USO along with several community partners organized a new kind of event with Veterans Day in mind.
“During the month of November, the NFL honors the military and this event was part of the Baltimore Ravens' Salute to Service initiative,” said Brittney Freshwater, the center supervisor for the Fort Meade & Baltimore MEPS USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore. “As dual partners of the Ravens and USO-Metro, Coca Cola Consolidated and Safeway wanted to support the initiative as well.”
Raven’s cheerleaders handed out backpacks with pompoms, cozies and other Raven paraphernalia. Coca-Cola Consolidated, handed out six packs of mini-beverages of their products. Safeway gave a grocery bag filled with the makings for s’mores and chili, and each bag had a $10 Safeway gift card. Safeway also provided box lunches to everyone driving up.
“We truly could not have asked for better weather, and we got incredibly lucky,” said Freshwater. “This event took a lot of planning and prep work leading up to the event day; however, the day itself went great!”
Tech. Sgt. Lillie Eudy from the 7th Intelligence Squadron, took the opportunity of the lovely weather and the box lunches from Safeway, to have an impromptu picnic. She brought her 12 year-old son Jason and eight year-old Matthew, each of them collecting individual packages at each station.
“The Fort Meade USO is the best part of the DMV (the corridor that includes Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia),” said Eudy. “All of their events are well planned and often are the highlight of our month. The volunteers and the community are amazing.”
The community turned out for the giveaways. According to Freshwater, 200 families registered for the event where around 790 packages of goodies were given away. Maryland State Delegate Mike Rogers was on hand to assist volunteers as they handed out goodies. Like all the volunteers, he wore gloves and a mask, but he clearly enjoyed himself.
“As a Veteran with 32 years of military service, it's an honor to support events which serve our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines and their families,” said Rogers. “I am proud to stand with the USO as I have witnessed firsthand all the organization does to support our military and their families.”
“We made this event a drive and go event to minimize contact,” said Freshwater. “We loaded everything directly into patron's trunks/back seats to eliminate touch points”
To keep the event COVID safe, participants signed up ahead of time and were assigned a time slot for arrival. Car loads of people drove up to four different stations while volunteers either handed them gift bags through the window, or placed the giveaways in their trunk.
“To keep not only the patrons safe, but staff and volunteers as well, we made sure to follow all of the guidelines set forth by the Ft. Meade Garrison, [Maryland] Governor [Larry] Hogan, and the CDC,” said Freshwater. “Everyone was required to wear a facemask. All of the staff and volunteers had a sanitation station to utilize and were also required to wear gloves at all times when distributing goods.”
Once the event began, all the safety precautions didn’t take away from the fun.
“I always get nervous leading up to a big event,” said Freshwater. “Once the event starts it is just amazing to be in the moment, and see all of the participants having a wonderful time.”
Rogers had supportive words for the organizers. “I'd like to offer a shout out to Coca Cola, Safeway, the Baltimore Ravens organization and Team Ft Meade for hosting such an outstanding event!"