USO Florida Delivers Joy to Service Members Through Random ‘Snacks’ of Kindness
At the USO, every day is Random Acts of Kindness Day. After all, as a military support nonprofit, we’re in the business of improving the daily lives of our service members and their military families year-round.
Sometimes, that support comes from big programs or campaigns, but oftentimes, it’s the little moments that really make a difference. The small, random acts of kindness from a member of the USO team – whether that be an employee, USO volunteer, or even a USO entertainer – that pass by in an instant but can completely change a service member’s experience.
For USO Florida staff and volunteers serving the Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola and Corry Station areas, they have taken Random Acts of Kindness Day to a whole new level, celebrating what they call Random “Snacks” of Kindness all year round.
What started as a small, quick USO outreach mission delivery concept has now grown into a monthly program where USO Florida staff and volunteers serve over 200 service members a month. This totals over 7,200 USO snack bags delivered to the young Marines and Sailors attending training or stationed in the NAS Pensacola area since the Random Snacks of Kindness program’s inception in early 2020.
“During the pandemic in 2020, we were looking for ways to creatively and safely connect with the service members in training who were restricted to their barracks during that time,” said Amanda Wood, the Center Operations Supervisor for (NAS) Pensacola. “The original idea was just to bring them a USO snack bag to show our appreciation, that quickly evolved into a monthly base wide snack delivery at NAS Pensacola and Corry Station.”
Although NAS Pensacola has the luxury of having a 10,000 square foot USO center on its installation that service members and their families can enjoy seven days a week, the USO Florida staff and volunteers wanted to do something more.
Random snacks of kindness serves as a reminder that they are not alone.
“By providing USO mission deliver at the barracks, we are able show how fun and heartwarming our USO staff and volunteers can be,” said Catherine Lysek, Center Programs Manager at Corry Station.
USO Florida’s random snacks of kindness program was designed to boost morale, recruit USO volunteers, and spread kindness to military students in training who may need it most. A great majority of these young students are away from their home, family and friends for the first time in their lives and they may feel isolated.
“This is such a great surprise. The people at the USO are always so nice and giving,“ said Lance Cpl. Potterton "I appreciate the things they do for us so much, they don’t realize what kind of positive impact they have on us.”
Something as simple as a few familiar snacks can brighten their day, and perhaps motivate them to get out of their barracks rooms and visit the USO center. USO centers provide a safe comfortable place for service members to relax and connect while off duty, where they can be with like-minded individuals, who want to volunteer or just take a break and enjoy a movie with friends.
“The largest population of our visitors are students who are fresh out of bootcamp and may not know the USO even exists. Our random snacks of kindness program is an introduction for a lot of junior service members to the USO, so we want to make a good impression on them,” said Lysek.
The USO delivers support to service members stationed abroad, conducting training, or on arduous missions and those deployed to remote areas around the world. Through outreach programs like Random Snacks of Kindness and other support provided throughout challenging deployments and assignments, which includes care packages, snacks, holiday celebration items and internet services, the USO helps ensure service members stay connected.
“The number of times we hear, ‘Oh my gosh, I love the USO,’ just form this program alone is immeasurable,” said Wood. “We want our service members to know that the USO is always by their side, wherever their journeys take them.”