Sherry Ems, executive director of the USO of Central and Southern Ohio, and Bob Hope impersonator Bill Johnson.

Sherry Ems, executive director of the USO of Central and Southern Ohio, and Bob Hope impersonator Bill Johnson.

FLORENCE – When the Kentucky National Guard was called to assist with hurricane relief in the Caribbean in early November, the USO went into action.

Members of the Kentucky Guard learned of the assignment only a day ahead of their scheduled departure. The USO put together care packages with food and toiletry items for the military units called together to aid hurricane recovery.

“The USO is still around,” said Sherry Ems, executive director of the USO of Central and Southern Ohio. “The USO is more than Bob Hope and entertainment.”

Ems’ branch of the military support organization covers 65 counties in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia, including Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties. In a presentation to the Florence Rotary Club on November 6, she said the non-profit organization is considering a name change to identify its service area more clearly.

The USO, created in 1941, gained fame for its entertainment programs for the United States Armed Forces during World War II and the Vietnam War. Hope, a vaudeville comedian and actor, came to be known as the USO’s “one-man morale machine” for his tours of war zones with entertainers during the Christmas season.

USO support has expanded well beyond entertainment shows, but morale boosting is still integral to the operation of the 200 locations around the world.

“Bottom line, our mission is to keep service members connected to home, family and country” from the moment they enter the armed forces until they leave, Ems said.

USO of Central and Southern Ohio maintains lounges for military travelers at four airports in the region including Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (Concourse A and Concourse B). The lounges provide free WI-FI, snacks and a comfortable place to relax for active-duty and retired military.

In addition, USO offers a number of programs designed “to not only take care of the soldier, but also the family behind them,” Ems said. Among the programs are the following:

  • United Through Reading – a recording of the service member reading a book for family to listen to while the soldier is deployed.
  • Read2Connect – a recording of a service member’s child reading a book for the soldier to listen to while deployed.
  • Marry Me Military – a bridal expo with free wedding gowns and ball gowns for service members and family.
  • Operation Military Kids – a one-week summer camp for military children run like a military base so children can see their parents are safe while deployed.

“They (the children) see they’re not alone and other kids are in the same circumstances,” Ems said. “It has a huge impact on the kids’ lives.”

And it’s one more way USO boosts morale.


Beth Long and New Day Achievement

November 9, 2017

FLORENCE – Horses don’t lie. They don’t mask their feelings. They don’t talk back or judge you if you pour out your innermost thoughts. And, they’re loving, caring and sensitive. “We use that natural relationship as a mirror to help people overcome their relationship problems,” says Beth Long, founder and CEO of New Day Achievement […]

Read the full article →

Patriotic Employer Awards

October 23, 2017

FLORENCE – Employees of two Northern Kentucky businesses have received awards for exemplary support of members of the National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve. Rod Bell, area chair for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), presented the awards at a meeting of the Florence Rotary Club on Monday, Oct. 16. ESGR is a […]

Read the full article →

Athletic Director Bothof Reviews NKU’s Climb to Division 1

October 6, 2017

Northern Kentucky University, a significant community asset since 1976, recently completed the move to Division 1 membership and acceptance into the Horizon League.    The move more closely aligns NKU with other regional institutions that value athletics and academics.  “This allows us to recruit not just athletes, but all students to an outstanding regional university like […]

Read the full article →

Mayor Whalen Gives Annual Report to Rotarians

September 26, 2017

FLORENCE – Senior housing is popping up everywhere, Mall Road is rebounding and a community plaza is almost ready to go. That’s the good news from Florence Mayor Diane Whalen. The bad news is the heroin epidemic rages on, unabated. The mayor presented her annual update on the city’s well-being at the Florence Rotary Club […]

Read the full article →

Bunning Center Addresses Grief and Anger

September 4, 2017

FLORENCE – Place matters. That’s the assessment of Dr. James Ellis, a professional counselor, chaplain and the bereavement care coordinator at St. Elizabeth Healthcare. That’s why he began lobbying for a separate place at St. Elizabeth’s facilities in Edgewood for grief support as far back as 2009, Ellis said at a luncheon meeting of the […]

Read the full article →

Rotarians Honor Mark and Debbie Staggs as 2017 Citizens of the Year

August 25, 2017

FLORENCE – No one was surprised when Mark Staggs turned attention at the Florence Rotary Citizen of the Year ceremony to Special Olympics volunteers. The Rotarians honored Mark and Debbie Staggs as 2017 Citizens of the Year for their 27 years of leadership of the Special Olympics of Northern Kentucky at a luncheon on Monday, […]

Read the full article →

Family Promise of Northern Kentucky Celebrated First Anniversary

August 2, 2017

FLORENCE – Family Promise of Northern Kentucky celebrated the first anniversary of its reopening with a perfect record for keeping its promises. The homeless sheltering program served 12 families in its first year, which ended July 18. All 12 “graduated,” according to Executive Director Amanda Speier. “We had a 100 percent success rate,” she told […]

Read the full article →

Weinberg Introduces Ronald McDonald House to Rotarians

July 10, 2017

FLORENCE – Mike Weinberg says the Ronald McDonald House is much more than an affordable place to stay for family members with critically injured youngsters at Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “We’re not just a shelter,” Weinberg said. “We provide all the things people are missing from home. “It’s important to us that the families feel […]

Read the full article →

Rotarian’s Welcome Irish Heritage Center

June 28, 2017

FLORENCE – Maureen Kennedy and Kent Covey are “awakening the Irish” in Greater Cincinnati. They founded the Irish Heritage Center (IHC) of Greater Cincinnati eight years ago. They are transforming a late 19th century school building on the east side of the Queen City into a museum, theater, library, tea room, pub and music and […]

Read the full article →

Superintendent Poe Talks Boone County Schools

June 23, 2017

FLORENCE – Service learning sounded like a superb world class education strategy to Superintendent Randy Poe until sixth-graders at Camp Ernest Middle School proposed a beehive pollination project. When Poe endorsed the project, they told him “we have to build them and place them on the roof,” he recalled. “I’m sitting there thinking … OK, […]

Read the full article →

Lincoln Grant Scholar House

May 31, 2017

FLORENCE – The results are in for the first semester for Lincoln Grant Scholar House students, and the grades are good … very good. Lincoln Grant Scholar House, which opened in Covington earlier this year, provides affordable housing and family services for 45 single parents enrolled in post-secondary education. “The exciting thing is the high […]

Read the full article →