Social distancing, as we do our part to lower the curve during this pandemic, has led us to develop innovative virtual programming to continue the USO’s mission of connection. One of the first virtual programs our team put together was a virtual book club that would meet through video conferences and continue discussions in a dedicated Facebook group.
The forty members of our book club are excited to read our first book, “The Girl They Left Behind” by Roxanne Veletzos. Set in Bucharest, Romania during WWII, the story begins “On a freezing night in January 1941, [when} a little Jewish girl is found on the steps of an apartment building in Bucharest. With Romania recently allied with the Nazis, the Jewish population is in grave danger so the girl is placed in an orphanage and eventually adopted by a wealthy childless couple who name her Natalia. As she assimilates into her new life, she all but forgets the parents who were forced to leave her behind.”
After a few shipping related delays, our book club finally had its first virtual meeting this week, discussing the first five chapters. Discussion flowed between the story and present day, and tied in readers’ personal experiences as well. Everyone who joined the meeting voiced excitement about the virtual platform as well as the time to visit with other adults during this time. One attendee said, “I look at this meeting as time for me to recharge, and take care of myself so I can take care of my family; it was a great conversation and I can’t wait for the next meeting.” Other attendees were excited to find a new group of friends saying, “I have been in book clubs at other duty stations but haven’t really found a good fit since I moved here, this has been a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to next week.” After the meeting, the discussions continue in our book club Facebook group, and we continue to connect there until the next time we all get together.
USO’s mission of connection doesn’t end with social distancing, and while this program has grown from a necessity of staying at home, it has quickly become clear that it will continue beyond the end of pandemic related stay-at-home orders. Through this program, we can bring USO goodness to the military community wherever they are, including locations far from a USO Center. “The virtual option allows us to connect from home and we don’t have to worry about childcare or being away to attend a meeting.”
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