October 21, 2014

Elyria
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49°F
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USO canteen makes stop in Sheffield


STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE
Linda Fredrickson, a Cleveland-area USO representative, stands in front of the mobile canteen.

SHEFFIELD — The sound of video games and laughter blared Thursday night from a 40-foot party bus parked outside of Quaker Steak & Lube on state Route 254.

Inside, the gamers were doing their best to drown out the noise of the motorcycle engines in the parking lot with the music from the game they were playing, “Rock Band” on Xbox 360.

Tamra Birchfield, manager of the USO’s central region, has driven the $450,000 tour bus, called the United Service Organizations Mobile Canteen, some 30,000 miles around the country since March. She had come from Wisconsin on this trip.

She said she has a two-fold quest: Boost troops’ morale and bring comfort to their families.

USO event coordinator Linda Fredrickson said the Cleveland-area branch of her group, which was responsible for bringing the bus here, serves about 15,000 people each year.

“When we talk to a lot of soldiers in Iraq, they say they don’t want us to help them. They want us to help their families,” she said.

She leads volunteers who send 12,000 care packages a year to soldiers overseas.

Fredrickson said even more important is helping soldiers’ spouses facing financial issues and taking care of children by themselves.

She said Quaker Steak owner Larry Campana volunteered his restaurant as an event location in order to help raise funds for those projects.

Campana said he expected 4,000 customers to visit the USO Mobile Canteen that was parked outside the restaurant Thursday night.

The partnership makes sense, Fredrickson said, since more than 80 percent of bikers are veterans.

To get involved with the USO, visit uso.org or call the Bob Hope USO Lounge at (440) 567-6077.

Contact Jason Hawk at 329-7148 or jhawk@chroniclet.com.