FAIRBORN, OH—The Holiday Inn Dayton/Fairborn here created a donation program that has allowed its military reunion clients to generate thousands of dollars for the USO, an organization that helped them when they served.
Kalyn Leeper, catering sales manager with the hotel, and other hotel staff came up with the idea after she met Mia Walthers, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base USO Center manager, at a Chamber of Commerce event and later toured the facility. “Something that really pulled on my heartstrings when we were at the USO was that Mia worked so hard to keep a pantry full of food,” said Leeper. “She fills it every day and it is gone within the next day. It was amazing how much food she had in there. It is gone quickly because the young airmen don’t have a ton.”
The hotel hosts a number of military reunions throughout the year, so the staff wanted to give them an opportunity to make a donation to the local USO chapter by adding $1 extra per person attending, with the hotel matching all donations dollar for dollar. “When I shared the idea with my reunion groups, they were all extremely excited and eager to participate in this and to give back,” she said. “It was really quite amazing. At one of the reunions, they made it $1.50 per person to raise extra money. I had another reunion pass around a basket to raise extra money.”
Between the nine reunions and the hotel’s match, $3,000 was raised for the USO of Central and Southern Ohio (USO CSO). “When organizations like the Holiday Inn do something like this, it is huge, because we have grown bigger than we have anticipated, but we are always on the year-before budget,” said Walthers. “We grow every year, but I am always lagging a year behind.”
USO CSO as a whole served nearly 181,000 military members and family members in 2017 alone. “Here at Wright-Patterson, we had over 44,000 military members that came through here that we took care of. Sometimes, it was just a helping hand, sometimes it was a sandwich, but it was always a place to go,” she said. “That is a huge amount of people coming through here.”
The Wright-Patterson Air Force Base USO has a full-size auditorium, as well as Airman’s Attic. “This is where gently used items that are donated by the public are is processed through and given right back to military members who are at the lowest rank, the ones who are struggling financially,” said Walthers.
The USO also has a cyber café that serves items like Gatorade, water and frozen pizza, along with free WiFi, for young airmen to enjoy. “I can’t thank these organizations enough when they do things like this, and what she has done is huge,” she said. “It has almost taken care of what I need for a whole month at the cyber café.”
The $3,000 check was presented in January on the base, with five of the nine reunions sending representatives for the ceremony.