Celebrating 'What's Right'

CSP's CARRE Foundation gives the USO reason to be optimistic

OAK BROOK, Ill. -- In an opportune combination of time and place, convenience-store leaders and suppliers will gather just outside Washington, D.C., this summer to discuss retailing, the state of the economy and the future under a soon-to-be-elected new president during the 2008 Outlook Leadership conference. And in keeping with the theme of this year's event—What's Right With America—those gathered also will focus their charitable efforts on raising money to benefit the USO through CSP's CARRE Foundation.

"Imagine yourself as a young child, separated from your parent [a deployed [image-nocss] member of the military] for months at a time.... dad or mom is not home to read a book to you," said John West, director of sales and marketing for Southwest Convenience Stores, Odessa, Texas. "One of the programs the USO sponsors is a reading program, where a military parent is able to read a bedtime story to their children. Through the magic of technology, the service member is sent a book, reads it for taping, and the bedtime story is sent back home to the child. The deployed parent is now able to be on screen, back home, reading safely to their child at bedtime. Imagine the eyes of that young child seeing their father or mother as the story is read."

Such imagery is particularly poignant to West, whose son is serving in Iraq with the U.S. Army. He also notes that the reading program is just one example of the many ways the USO helps the families of enlisted soldiers.

Since before the United States entered World War II, the USO (United Services Organizations) has been the bridge between the American public and the U.S. military, delivering its special brand of comfort, morale and recreational services to the military.

Today, the USO delivers its programs and services at more than 130 locations around the world with a paid staff and a volunteer corps numbering 44,000. Services include free Internet and e-mail access, libraries and reading rooms, housing assistance, family-crisis counseling, support groups, game rooms and nursery facilities.

And West, who is serving as co-chairman of the CARRE Foundation at Outlook Leadership, points out that these programs are not funded by the government.

"The programs and services they offer are available only because someone back home cares," he said. "Someone has reached into their pocket and provided financial support for the USO and their family-support programs."

By donating an item to the silent auction that will be held at Outlook Leadership or bidding on an item in the auction, c-store retailers and suppliers can help.

Also, the Coca-Cola Co. has commissioned artist Steve Penley to create an original piece of artwork to unveil and sell at Outlook Leadership as part of the silent auction. Limited-edition prints of the Penley painting will be sold at the charity desk and each $100 contributed will enter attendees into the grand-prize drawing for a Harley-Davidson Sportster donated by Nestle Waters.

And in another fundraising effort, Mountain View Marketing is again providing the now-traditional plush animals with each $100 donation to the USO.

"We are excited to partner with organizations like the CARRE Foundation that share our mission of providing support for service members and their families," said Edward A. Powell, USO president and CEO. "What does this donation mean to the USO? It means more free Internet and e-mail access for troops so they can stay connected to families and friends; it means new and renovated USO centers to provide a break in routine; it means that we can continue doing the job we do now and into the future, improving the quality of life for our men and women serving around the world."

For more than 67 years, the USO has supported U.S. troops and their families wherever they serve. Across the United States and around the world, the American military knows that the USO is there for them. By supporting the USO, Americans show their appreciation and express their gratitude to the men and women who defend us.

CARRE, the Charitable Alliance of Retail & Restaurant Executives, was formed by Oak Brook, Ill.-based CSP Information Group in 2007 to spotlight charitable causes that industry executives are passionate about, with the goal of fostering stronger relationships and support within the retail community.

Outlook Leadership, to be held Sept. 15-17 at the new Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, Md., is in its 14th year and is an invitation-only leadership training and networking event for executives from the convenience-store/retail-petroleum industry. For more information, go to www.outlookconference.com or contact Bryn Cotton at (480) 337-3420 or [email protected].