VALRICO – More than 70,000 active-duty military personnel live in Central Florida, many of them in the greater Brandon area, get special treatment when they and their dependents fly in or out of Tampa, thanks to the USO Welcome Center. Now, the USO has scheduled a fundraising dance.
Since opening in September 2012, the welcome center at Tampa International Airport has helped more than 12,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guard members and their dependents.
United Service Organizations are a nonprofits that provides programs and services to U.S. troops and their families. It was founded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II.
Center volunteers and three paid staff members greet and aid visitors, said Mary Zolna of Valrico, vice chair and assistant secretary on the board of directors of USO Central Florida, formerly USO Tampa Bay.
They provide food, drink, and the use of laptops and printers in a relaxing atmosphere to service members returning from overseas as well as to grieving families travelling to retrieve loved ones’ remains, said Zolna.
USO Central Florida also gives Comfort Crew kits to 6- to 12-year-old children with a deployed or deploying family member, said Zolna.
They plan to open the USO Central Florida VA Day Room this spring at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital and are planning a USO Welcome Center at the Orlando International Airport.
Zolna, who with her husband, retired Marine Kenneth Zolna, has worked from the ground up to start the local USO, said the nonprofit needs funding and volunteers.
“USO Central Florida is supported by the community’s generosity. We get very little financial support even from our parent organization,” she said. “We’re happy to go speak to community service organizations and corporations about partnering with us.”
Zolna invites the public to help by attending the second annual G.I. Jive Dance, “a wonderful, fun-filled evening of dance and entertainment. All proceeds support the USO Central Florida programs for our deserving troops.”
The 19-piece G.I. Jive Big Band Orchestra will perform with 1940s-style singers from 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday, April 12, at the St. Petersburg Coliseum, 535 Fourth Ave. N., St. Petersburg. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Dance lessons and taxi dancers will be available.
Attendees are encouraged to come in their snazziest military, vintage or dress attire — there will be a vintage costume contest. Drawings will take place for items such as theme-park passes, hotel accommodations and dinner cruises. There will be a cash bar.
Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door and are available by calling (813) 676-4311, emailing [email protected] or by going to its website here. Proceeds benefit USO Central Florida programs and services.
To invite USO representatives to a service club meeting, contact Zolna at [email protected]
Send items of community interest to Barbara Routen at [email protected]