USO of Missouri’s mission: To strengthen America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country award winner throughout their service to the nation.

Q | How long have you been a volunteer?
A | Since 2007. I’ve volunteered 5,500 hours since then, which is quite a bit more than the average volunteer!

Q | What made you interested in this cause?
A | Back in the mid-2000s, the U.S. was in conflict all over the world, and the impact on the troops and their families touched me to the root of my soul. I wanted to do something continuous to help them. I traveled more than a million miles for business myself, so I know how hard it is to travel and sit in an airport for a long time. I was coming back from a trip and saw the USO, and something clicked. I talked to the membership director, and it’s been a constant and growing effort since then. I was in the Reserves from 1969 to 1975, and most of the soldiers I trained with were there on a judge’s order, so their character often wasn’t sterling. Young soldiers today are highly intelligent, dedicated, polite and appreciative. Working with people like that makes you feel good about both what you’re doing and about yourself, which is why I started volunteering.

Q | What kind of volunteer work are you involved with?
A | I mix it up all the time! My wife and I are at the USO every Saturday, and on average, I work about eight other shifts each week, each one around four to six hours. Without USO, troops would be sitting in the airport on the floor, so we take care of them: we give them food, beds, blankets, things to do, just make them feel at home. A lot of the soldiers are not sophisticated travelers, so I help with reservations that have gone awry and baggage issues. But it’s more than just hours at the USO, too. I personally talked with Einstein Bagels to get food donated and now, every Monday at 5:30 a.m., I pick up between 25 and 40 dozen bagels to feed the troops during the week. I called the Post-Dispatch editor and now they deliver four subscriptions every morning. When Schnucks had a drive for us, I put 1,400 miles on my car to pick up the items and bring them back to the USO. I also help out with various events at Scott Air Force Base. It all keeps my mind and soul busy!

Q | If you could do anything for the USO, what would it be?
A | We have a very generous community, but many people don’t realize that the USO of Missouri gets no funding from the government. We’re totally self-sustaining, and our official source of funding is from veterans groups and various businesses. We always need help with donations of food and cash. Right now, I’m trying to find a source for fresh fruit. The only time we get things like oranges, apples and bananas is if people bring them in. The USO is probably one of the most charitable organizations, ensuring that the vast preponderance of funds goes toward the purpose they were collected. Well over 90 percent goes directly to support the troops. There are very few professional staff; 99.9 percent of the work is done by volunteers.

Reaching-Out3.9In the Words of the USO of Missouri: “Stu pours his entire heart and soul into our organization! No matter what adversity is happening in his own life, he is always available at the drop of a hat to help us out with whatever we need. He volunteers all hours for us at the main terminal and is extremely helpful to our military guests when they need guidance and support. Whether it is an impromptu donation pickup or emergency help with a project, Stu is always there to lend a hand. He is responsible for securing and maintaining our relationship with Einstein Bros. Bagels. He truly is a priceless jewel to our other volunteers, staff and our organization as a whole.”

the USO of missouri board:
Jamie Allman, Emmis Communications; Mark Bass; Betsey Bruce, KTVI-TV; Jim Bruchas, Capital Partners Investment Firms; Ronald Capek; Carter Dunkin, management consultant; Cottrell Fox, J.W. Terrill Insurance; Judi Keith; Kathleen Kroupa, DRS Technologies; Mark Lear, Travelers Bond; Ryan Maher, Connexio Media; David Malone, Retirement Solutions LLC ; Paul Marshall, Osage Industries Inc.; Jerry Middleton; Gregory Mollett, Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale; Charlie Peters; Tom Rice, Ameren; Bryan Scott, Enterprise Holdings; Jack Senneff, Thompson Street Capital Partners; David Waltrip, Waltrip & Schmidt LLC ; Jeff Wieringa, Boeing

Photo: Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton
Strauss Peyton is a proud sponsor of the T&S Reaching Out awards.