GREAT LAKES, Il. – The United Services Organization at Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois, is bringing some holiday cheer to the Sailors of Great Lakes with donations.
The gift packs were created by Carpentersville local, Tina Loizzi, who has taken on this project for a second year. She collected donations to stuff roughly 300 filled stocking gift packs from friends, family and local businesses and handmade the stockings herself. She began knitting stockings last year after her daughter Kaitlin joined the Air Force. Last year she sent 300 stockings to her daughter’s base in Wyoming.
“Until my daughter went into the military I did not realize that it can be a lonely place sometimes,” said Loizzi. “I made sure to include a letter or card with each stocking so that military members receiving the stockings would know how appreciated they really are.
“This year I felt it important to do something for the naval base that was right here near me. All military deserve to be very appreciated so this is just my little input that I did happily.”
The USO took on these donations to distribute to Sailors from Training Support Center Great Lakes. Over the holiday period, they plan to deliver to the various barracks across the base.
“We have a huge team that helps us find people that want to support the military out in Chicago, in the state, and throughout the nation,” said Clarice Bernett, one of the USO’s operations managers. “Especially around the holidays, people start thinking of groups in need and we get reached out to by our team. They ask if we have space for this and – of course – we always do. We went ahead and accepted this incredibly generous gift of two to almost three hundred stockings full of stuff.”
Some Sailors will receive one of these handmade stockings, filled to the brim with snacks, toiletries, treats, and handwritten notes. Ninety percent of the donations came from businesses such as Otto Engineering – who made a monetary donation – and Primrose Candy Co. in Chicago – who donated heart candy.
With the operational training bubble stood up for TSC Great Lakes Sailors throughout most of 2020, gestures like this remind them that others are thinking of them.
“Some of us have been on base since [the pandemic] started,” said Electrician’s Mate Fireman Nicholas Brooks, from Tewksbury, Massachusetts. “It’s nice to know that people outside are thinking of us here on base and trying to help us out.”
“My biggest hope is that the military members who received the stockings will feel good and know that they are making a difference in the decision that they have made to be a part of the United States military,” said Loizzi. “I hope they feel a virtual hug when they receive the stockings.”
USO Great Lakes serves over 60,000 Sailors a year, said Bernett. Throughout the holidays, they have planned snack deliveries to the barracks, a visit from Santa, and continuing a grab-n-go service to pick up snacks and other goodies.
“For the Sailors that can’t go home, we’re just making sure they have something over the holidays and that they’re being taken care of and thought of in this time,” said Bernett. “Over [the holidays], we’re here to provide material support. We’ll make sure we support whatever we can in whatever way we can.”
The biggest USO in the Midwest, Great Lakes USO serves more than 50 commands across northern Illinois and provides Sailors and their dependents with services such as internet connectivity, food, beverages, travel services and a place to rest and relax. It is the only USO in Illinois that is not located in an airport.
For more information on the USO of Illinois, go to https://illinois.uso.org/ or visit https://www.facebook.com/usoofillinois.
For more news from Naval Station Great Lakes, visit www.dvidshub.net/unit/NSGLPA or www.facebook.com/NavalStationGreatLakes.