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Charity Spotlight: USO of Missouri - Ladue News: Charities & Non-Profits

Charity Spotlight: USO of Missouri

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Posted: Thursday, November 1, 2012 12:00 pm | Updated: 12:48 pm, Thu Nov 1, 2012.

USO of Missouri, Inc.

Mission: The USO of Missouri, Inc. is a private, nonprofit organization that focuses on lifting the spirits of America’s troops and their families by providing a ‘touch of home’ through its facilities, a shoulder when needed and family-friendly events.

The organization has two facilities at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport that provide military personnel and their families a place to feel at home while they are on the go. The James S. McDonnell USO in Terminal 1 is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year; while the new USO Satellite in Terminal 2 offers assistance to traveling military during business hours Monday through Friday. The USO also operates a facility at Ft. Leonard Wood, along with the Dennis Jones Family Foundation Mobile USO. Receiving no government, military or United Way funding, and financially independent from the National USO, the 501(c)3 organization relies on private donations in order to serve the troops.

History: The USO, or United Service Organization, was founded in 1941 by President Franklin Roosevelt. The Missouri chapter was established in September 1981 when the James S. McDonnell USO opened, named for the founder of McDonnell aircraft. The Mobile USO was added in 2005, with the Ft. Leonard Wood facility opening in 2006, and the USO Satellite in 2007.

Community Impact: The USO of Missouri provides services to the entire state of Missouri, as well as four counties in southern Illinois. Since its inception in 1981, the organization has served more than 4.1 million military personnel and their families, with 270,000 served annually.

What/When/Where:

Fifth Annual USO of Missouri Mud Run, June 1, 2013 at MidAmerica Airport

A timed military-style 5K cross-country race designed for individuals and five-member teams, the run is intended to test endurance as the challenging course takes you through mud pits and water crossings. For more information, visit facebook.com/USOofMissouriMudRun.

How to Get Involved: More than 900 volunteers help make the USO of Missouri’s facilities, programs and events a success. A variety of opportunities are available, and complete training is provided. To volunteer, contact Lori Flett at 429-7739 or lflett@usomissouri.org.

As the USO relies on private donations, contributions are welcome. The organization always is in need of supplies to operate the facilities (a wish list can be found online), and financial options include Combined Federal Campaigns, planned giving or stock donations. For more information, call 429-7702 or visit usomissouri.org.

On the Board: Jim Bruchas

As a 22-year veteran of the military, Jim Bruchas’ past is the active duty military’s present. That understanding of the service those soldiers are providing has made him equal to the task as board president for the USO of Missouri. “Our job is to support these soldiers and the impact we’ve been able to have is superb,” he says. “The soldiers come and go through the facilities, but it makes a difference.”

Shortly after moving to St. Louis 10 years ago, Bruchas was encouraged by a friend to attend a USO board meeting and he was quickly hooked. During the next several years, he moved up the ranks before becoming board president in 2011. The retired fighter pilot, who now works for Heizer Aerospace, is committed to the organization’s efforts, which range from proving a place for family game nights to a quick bite to eat during pre-deployment training. The USO also offers a program that films soldiers reading books to their children, wellness dogs that provide comfort, and support for the Warrior Transition Unit, Bruchas details. “They really appreciate that we’re there for them. The commanders can call us at any time, and if we can, we’ll show up.”

Bruchas also is helping to lead the way as the USO reaches out to the younger demographic, encouraging them to learn about the organization and get involved. Sustained financial and community support also is key. “We’re concerned that as the war winds down, interest in the active duty soldier will be lost,” he explains.

Bruchas will step down as president at the end of the year, but taking up the position as chairman of the board will allow him to stay involved in a personally important cause. “Being able to give back something that I know is needed for these soldiers is a great reward.”

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