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USO and Coastal Women’s Shelter

March 5, 2013

North Carolina – Tuesday, February 26

When I was researching donation possibilities last night, I thought maybe this would be a good town to make a military-based donation because I’m right by Camp Lejeune. And that’s when I discovered there are still USO facilities! In my mind, those were something from WWII days with Bob Hope entertaining. But there are still quite a few active USOs in the country and the one here in Jacksonville offers several programs like Smiles Over Miles (where family members can make videos for deployed loved ones); Honors Support Team (to make sure a fallen comrade is never alone on the final journey home and to help the family at airports and with other red tape); Deployment and Homecoming Support; and other programs. I found the building and went inside and it was fun to look around. It was very spacious and there were a few shelves of USO items that were for sale. They have a cafeteria which is open to the public for lunch, and several of the rooms can be rented out. The lady who showed me around says the function of a USO has certainly changed over the decades – many of the programs that used to be part of a USO are handled right on base now, so this USO does more outreach programs instead of having soldiers come to them. There were a couple of original phone booths in the big reception room where soldiers used to line up to make phone calls. And there were old records, old sheet music and old photos on the walls. So it was fun to make this donation and learn about USOs of today – especially since this one turned out to be the oldest continuously running USO in the country. The one in Fayetteville is a little older, but they shut down for a while after WWII.

It was a rainy morning, but I saw a bike trail and thought I’d try to do a little walking. I left Tula in the car since it was so wet, and set out with my umbrella, which turned out to be too small to be very effective. I only covered about a mile and a half. From there I went to Wal-Mart to shop for items on a wish list for the Coastal Women’s Shelter in New Bern, where I was headed next. I also bought a bigger umbrella for me! I drove up to New Bern which was settled by German and Swiss people, and there were several signs cautioning people to watch out for bears. And there were “bears” all over New Bern – on flags, statues, signs, carved into buildings etc. I found the administrative offices for the Coastal Women’s Shelter outside of town – as I figured, the address wasn’t the actual home – very few people know the exact location. The volunteers there were very friendly and supportive of what I’m doing, and they told me they currently have 7 people in the shelter, and they helped over 600 women last year. It’s very sad that these places are needed, but comforting to many women they’ve helped in their 27 years of existence.

Back in downtown New Bern it was still raining, but Tula had to get out, and since she’s a lab, it didn’t bother her getting wet! It’s a good thing I travel with some towels. We took a pretty long walk, then I put her back in the car and walked around some more on my own – my new umbrella is a definite improvement for me. I went down by the waterfront and it was cold and windy, and the water was very choppy and beginning to lap up over the walkway. Oddly enough though, when I was walking back into town I could feel the temperature rise a bit. New Bern was the birthplace of Pepsi, and there was a big Pepsi store so I stopped in and looked around (even though I’m a Diet Coke fan!). I was talking to the lady in the Pepsi store and she told me where there were some historic neighborhoods that would be good for walking, and since the rain had stopped for the time being, Tula and I set off for the last walk of the day in some pretty neighborhoods. I didn’t think I’d be able to get all my miles in today since it was so wet out, but I did, and then had a 45 minute drive up to Washington, NC where I called it a day – and it was raining again!
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