Disney, Olive Garden come to rescue of Calif. USO
Inland Valley (Calif. ) Daily Bulletin
ONTARIO, Calif. — Disney and an Ontario Olive Garden restaurant are the latest to come to the rescue, in separate cases, to help the USO Ontario help active military personnel.
USO Ontario representatives recently received a $30,000 grant from the Disney VoluntEARS Community Fund.
“We have received two $5,000 grants during the last two years and had applied for another one this year. Disney is celebrating 30 years of giving and chose 10 charities to receive the $30,000,” said Gail Oyler, USO Ontario center manager.
Two big projects in the works is to have two ductless air conditioning units installed, one in the kitchen and one in the television room. The USO Ontario also needs to replace some worn-out chairs in the television room.
“As a nonprofit organization, this is a tremendous help to the USO Ontario to continue to serve and provide for our military at no charge to them,” she said.
And serve it does. So far this year, volunteers have helped more than 26,000 troops.
The USO Ontario is at the Los Angeles/Ontario International Airport and operated by a large enthusiastic and dedicated group of volunteers. They are always there to offer smiles, hugs, directions and free food to military personnel and their families. The USO maintains a terrific annex that provides a home-like atmosphere to those arriving in the Inland Valley or making connecting flights or other transports.
The USO Ontario is staffed throughout the year in order to provide assistance when needed, but sometimes even this committed group needs help. That was the case a week ago the USO hosted 388 Marines bound for Okinawa for a nine-month deployment, according to Oyler.
“They were with us for seven hours prior to their flight. Shortly before boarding, it was determined that the plane was too heavy with the passenger and gear load. The solution was to bump 50 Marines from this flight. This meant these 50 would not fly out with their unit.
“The next problem was that there was nowhere for them to go. They had all gone through the emotional goodbyes with their families, and there wasn’t a place for them back at Camp Pendleton. The USO volunteers stepped up and spent the night at the USO so that we could stay open and have a place for the Marines to stay,” she said.
The plan then was for these Marines to join up with the group flying out the next day at 2 p.m.
“This meant that this group would have been at our USO for almost 36 hours. Rather than have them eat another several meals of our limited menu of sandwiches and hot dogs, I reached out to Melissa (Orlando), a manager I met at the Olive Garden Ontario. Melissa told me if I ever needed anything to call. I did.
“She was not in at the time, but manager John (Pendergast) agreed without any hesitation to provide spaghetti, salad and breadsticks for our stranded Marines. Melissa confirmed everything with me later. Her brother is a Marine serving in Afghanistan and is due home this week. Olive Garden made this very long stay just a little bit better with a warm meal in their bellies. The Marines were thrilled with their special dinner and gave Olive Garden Ontario a big Oorah,” Oyler said.
“We and the United States Marine Corps are very grateful to the Ontario Olive Garden. Its generosity is truly appreciated.”
Once again, she said, the community has responded when asked and with the holidays fast approaching, more help is needed. For more information about how to donate or to see the USO Ontario wish list go to bobhopeuso.org, or call 909-390-4274.
The USO’s biggest need is monetary donations or Costco gift cards for food and drink purchases.
“The USO purchases about 80 percent of its food and drinks. It is amazing how hungry these troops are when they arrive. Often, it will have been 12 to 15 hours since they have last eaten,” she said.
“And with winter approaching, the troops also are looking for beanies, specifically in dark colors such as blue and black. We never seem to have enough in stock.”