DLA volunteer bakers help USO bring cheer to staff working holidays; drivers wanted

By John Bell

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Thanks to volunteers from the Defense Logistics Agency, installation personnel working Dec. 24-25 at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, will have homemade cookies to let them know they’re appreciated.

A team from DLA Logistics Operations’ Disposal Policy and Compliance Division and another from DLA Energy spent several merry hours Dec. 21 in the kitchen of the Warrior and Family Center, baking cookies from scratch. The USO of Washington-Baltimore, which operates the WFC, leads an annual Christmas Eve “cookie run” to benefit the installation’s police officers, gate guards, firefighters and hospital staff working Dec. 24 or 25, including the night shifts.

“We’re very grateful to DLA to come out and do this,” said Casey Oelrich, center manager for the WFC at Fort Belvoir. “We’re really busy during the holiday season, with our volunteers running all the other programs, so this really means a lot to us,” she said.

Oelrich noted that the Fort Belvoir WFC typically needs "hundreds and hundreds" of cookies for the annual event. And when no outside organizations step up, USO Metro relies on its own volunteers.

The Logistics Operations personnel, made chocolate-chip cookies and sugar cookies in festive holiday shapes, mixing the dough from ingredients they brought — flour, eggs, milk, sugar — and adding decorative toppings.

The group, led by George Gray, disposal process owner for Logistics Operations, takes on a team-building activity each quarter. However, last May was the first time the group did a community-service project for this event. His team helped the Lorton Community Action Center in Virginia, by organizing the nonprofit’s warehouse of donated items to be sold in its thrift shop. Gray said the team’s next service project will be in March 2017.

His division plans to do two community-service projects each year, Gray said.

The idea for community-service projects began with Courtney Gutteridge, a property disposal specialist who joined his team in 2016, and Isaac Smith, a supply systems analyst on the team since 2015. Before this year, “we had previously always done something competitive, like bowling, and Courtney suggested we do some kind of community outreach as well,” Gray explained.

Dorothy Russell, a supply systems analyst on the team, proposed the baking project after researching local organizations in need of help for the holidays. “We pitched it to the team, and everybody loved the idea,” Gray said.

The group is proud to help USO Metro support those who keep Fort Belvoir operating 24/7, he added. “These folks are making a big sacrifice for all of us by being on duty on and around the holidays, so this is a small token of our esteem.”

For the 2015 cookie run, USO Metro provided more than 300 gift bags of cookies to installation staff, said Amy Altersitz, the program specialist for the USO Fort Belvoir. And this year, the USO still need drivers, she noted.

To volunteer for the cookie run or future USO projects, call 571-267-2088, or email Altersitz aaltersitz@usometro.org or Oelrich at coelrich@usometro.org.