By Contributing Editor Blair Drake
In Florida, the Historic Mayport Chapter also is working to support local military families in need. The chapter partners with USO Mayport, which provides free dinners to active duty enlisted servicemembers and their dependents at Naval Station Mayport twice a month, with special dinners at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The chapter, which received its charter in 2018, funded one of these “no-dough” dinners that year, a significant investment for a new chapter, said Cmdr. Patrick Kluever, USN (Ret), chapter president. Typically, 300-plus meals are served at each two-hour dinner, and chapter members volunteer more than 40 hours helping to plan, prepare, and serve the meals.
In 2019, the Historic Mayport Chapter received a Community Outreach Grant from the MOAA Foundation, which it used to fund four dinners. With its 2020 grant, the chapter plans to not only fund two no-dough dinners but also the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, which are the most expensive and most important to the military families at Mayport and include special events for the children attending.
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According to Kluever, military members usually will not go to food banks or other area charities. Rather, they go to the USO for support because it is seen as part of their support team.
“The commanding officers identify families who are struggling, and they’re given priority, which is good because [the meals are] going to people who really need it,” he explained.
For members of the chapter, supporting these families is giving them a mission — one they like, understand, and appreciate.
“If you give people projects they feel good about and are excited about, that holds the chapter together and produces a cohesive membership,” Kluever said. “Plus, they have fun.”
Blair Drake is a contributing editor for MOAA and lives in Souderton, Pa. She previously served on the editorial team of Military Officer magazine for nine years.