Caring for Friends is a free home meal provider and food bank serving the five-county Greater Philadelphia area. To learn more, click here.
While many people may think of the United Service Organization (USO) as an important governmental organization, it is actually a stand-alone nonprofit serving active-duty and retired military. There are over 250 USO centers worldwide and Caring for Friends (CFF) began partnering with the Liberty USO at the Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) in 2021. Its mission: to offer care, comfort, and support for military members and families traveling through airport.
It fulfils this mission by offering a TV room with recliners, Wi-Fi, personal hygiene items, showers, dorm facilities, and a full commercial kitchen -- and that’s where CFF has come in. Big.
“Working with Caring for Friends has saved us about $75-$100,000 in the past year – money we can put back into serving military, national guard, reserves, retirees, and their families,” said Brian Loughlin, Liberty USO PHL Center Manager. “The CFF are huge for us because they offer meal and nutrition support, including items ranging from protein, breakfasts, sandwich meat, vegetables, and fresh fruit. In just one year, CFF has provided enough food to feed about 35,000 active-duty and retired military and their families.”
Every Monday Loughlin sends his wish list to CFF, and CFF reviews inventory and pull as much of their needs as it can for Thursday pick up.
The requested amount varies each week depending on trainings as soldiers travel through PHL on their way to Fort Dix in New Jersey and Fort Indian Town Gap in Pennsylvania. Because PHL is the closest large public airport to Cape May, NJ, Loughlin and his team serve those in the U.S. Coast Guard coming in from all over the country.
The food CFF provides offers USO savings so it can provide holiday meals for travelling families.
“We’d have to purchase that food if we couldn't get it from Caring for Friends. The help is needed … and appreciated," said Loughlin.
These savings also support the military in the nearby community.
"We participate in the holiday adopt-a-family program where, if someone is struggling and their kids have a wish list, we purchase toys for them. We also help with dresses to make going to prom a little more affordable,” Loughlin added.
While the government provides military meal vouchers, "if their flight is delayed or they want a second sandwich, that’s what we’re here for," said Loughlin. "Or if you have a spouse and two or three kids, you don’t want to spend $3-5 on a bottle of water, that’s how we help - by saving them money, providing refuge from the hustle and bustle of the airport, and, sometimes, thanks to Caring For Friends, we offer a taste of home.”