Heart and Hard Work: Volunteers Transform USO Camp Buehring’s Outdoor Space

The sun is merciless in Camp Buehring, Kuwait. But behind the tent that houses the USO center, a transformation has taken place. What was once an unremarkable volleyball pit and few metal picnic tables that would burn to the touch, is now a shaded, welcoming retreat—a place to relax, play, and connect. With the help of a dedicated team of volunteers, Center Manager Allie Thrift, has overseen a complete renovation of USO Camp Buehring’s back patio area.

Concrete pavers now line the ground, providing a solid foundation for new benches, tables, and sunshades. Fun outdoor lighting adds a festive touch and the area is now a hub of activity—with events like cornhole, volleyball, dodgeball and tie dye nights. The patio has become a space that truly embodies the spirit of the USO and serves as a testament to what can be accomplished with a little hard work and a lot of heart.

USO Camp Buehring’s back patio before the renovations started.

When Allie started planning The Backyard Patio Project in January, she wasn’t sure what materials she would need, what the process would look like, or how to get started. “I had a volunteer that overheard my planning,” she said. “I had fully planned on having contractors come in to do the work. Ssg Zachary Dunn overheard and said ‘just let me do it. I want to. I want a project to do.’”

USO Volunteers begin work measuring and grading the land for the back patio renovations.

Allie expressed that she had never encountered such a remarkable group of volunteers who were not only eager to dive in and get their hands dirty, but were also highly skilled and knowledgeable about the specific projects she needed to be completed. “I had a woodworker, someone that works with concrete, I had a landscaper and a lot of hardworking individuals who just wanted to help. They worked so hard–laying concrete, digging holes, putting up the poles, helping me with things I never would have known, like how to cut concrete tiles, how to hang the sunshades. I just told them this is what I want, let’s make it happen and they did.“

It has been so nice to see our hard work pay off,” said Zach, a key volunteer in the renovation. “Service members love the USO and the back porch just adds so much to the atmosphere.

USO staff and volunteers begin laying the pavers one by one, to form the new foundation.

The key objectives for the revamped space were to enhance the appeal, create a comfortable atmosphere, and transform it into a desirable location where service members would love to unwind and spend their time. Given the austere desert environment, organizing enjoyable outdoor activities for service members is no easy feat. As such, Allie recognized the necessity of providing a welcoming and comfortable space that could accommodate large-scale events, such as dodgeball, which draws in around 500 individuals to the center.

Allie said her “main goals were to make it more homey for people on nice days when they’re spending time and to help block the sun. It gets really hot here. If you have a shady space, it’s much more comfortable.”

Once the plan was in place and the supplies had been acquired, Allie and her team of volunteers set to work. “We started digging holes on March 23rd. By April 20th, we were hosting our re-opening party. It took one month to get all the work done.

When the project was complete, USO Camp Buehring had a back patio made of new pavers, new benches and picnic tables, new red sunshades, and fun outdoor lighting for evening events.

Allie said she and her staff noticed a change immediately in the atmosphere. “There’s no where else on base to hang out like our USO center now” she said. “More people have been coming to spend time in our areas and our volleyball court. They enjoy hanging out on the patio and sitting in the benches. People will do homework or talk on the phone. It has made a huge difference in the way people spend time here.”

USO Volunteers hang the poles and sunshades to create a more comfortable outdoor environment.

“The porch has changed the entire volleyball court. It was a fun place to hang out before, but now it’s so much better,” said Sfc Luis Ortiz who is currently deployed to Camp Buehring. “The hard work put in by the staff and volunteers is very much appreciated.”

The volunteers that were pivotal in the completion of The Backyard Project have been awarded Army Achievement Medals. At the ceremony Lt Col Chris Nohle, Base Support Battalion Commander, said:

thank you to all the amazing volunteers that put in hard work during their free time to enhance the base for their fellow service members.

USO staff, volunteers and military base leadership cut the ribbon on the completed renovations.

The center’s enhancements are still in progress, as Allie and her team strive to further transform it into a welcoming environment. “We have some pavers left over, so we’re going to pave an area in the front as well. We also had a volunteer donate a nail gun. We purchased some wood stain and are recycling wood from pallets to redo our reception desk.”

With a beautiful new back patio and plans for further enhancements on the horizon, the future of USO Camp Buehring shines bright under the red canopies. Service members will find some relief from being far away from home and loved ones, thanks to the effort and caring from our staff and volunteers.

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