USO Center at Great Lakes Naval Station reopens after $3.2M renovation

Diane Pathieu Image
Thursday, June 17, 2021
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Diane Pathieu takes us to a new space at the Great Lakes Naval Station.

GREAT LAKES NAVAL STATION, Ill. (WLS) -- The USO Great Lakes Center at the Naval Station is completely renovated and ready to help service members recharge.

It's a respite for military members and their families, a community center they can truly call their own with space to unwind, relax and even get support and it just received a major upgrade..

Thanks to $3.2 million in donations, the USO Great Lakes Center at the Naval Station is completely renovated.

A new state-of-the-art kitchen welcomes the over 75,000 military service members and their families. There are new spaces for recreation, gaming, a children's center, a quiet section to reflect, a music room and more.

"You see the excitement in our service members' faces when they enter this space, when they sit down and read a book, or they take advantage of the music room or any of the other entertainment opportunities, taking a break from their day-to-day commitment to serve our nation is a very amazing thing to see," said Christopher Schmidt, executive director of the USO Illinois.

The 15,000-square foot facility hasn't been upgraded in years and was desperate for a facelift. The building shut down during the pandemic for the work, but maintained programs and assistance virtually and from other sites.

Vitally important services are what the USO is known for and now it has a chance to continue that mission in a new, upgraded facility.

"Our centers are very special places, because no matter where that service member or that military family member goes the minute they walk in the door," said Alison Ruble, USO Midwest Region president. "There is going to be a USO volunteer or staff person to welcome them and make them feel at home to connect them to resources they need to give them a place to feel at home."

The official grand re-opening celebration for community members that helped make this renovation possible will take place Thursday night.