Up to 30 volunteers are needed between now and January 15 to help staff the two Freedom Center Military Lounges at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. These individuals will work at the hospitality center, which hosts more than 6,000 active and retired military personnel during the holiday layover.
The lounges are located adjacent to Gate A43 in the McNamara Terminal and by Gate D17 in the North Terminal. The North Terminal lounge was just opened thanks to additional funding from Delta Air Lines, the presenting sponsor.
“We can’t say enough about how much this lounge means to traveling soldiers,” said John McCandless, publicist for the Freedom Center since the concept was initiated five years ago. “One woman soldier was traveling with two toddlers from Okinawa to Tokyo-Narita to Hawaii to Los Angeles to Detroit and found us at 6:30 a.m. She asked for a chair so she could take a short nap before her next flight (to her final destination). We offered her a bunk bed and we took care of her children. She was so grateful.”
Volunteers provide bagels from Einstein, sandwiches, fresh coffee and bottled water among other amenities. The lounges also offer free wi-fi to visitors.
One of the big requests is lip balm, McCandless said. “Those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are all dried out. They need Chapstick, tooth brushes, nail files and a nice place to relax.”
The notion of serving the needs of those in active duty came with Ken Kratt, a retired colonel, who in 2010 thought it imperative to provide a world-class reception and hospitality center. Initially, he and McCandless tried to affiliate with the USO but decided to go their own route with the first Freedom Center Military Lounge, which opened in 2011. Its stated mission is “Serving those who serve us.”
The Masco Foundation provided a $100,000 grant for the project and Meritor added another $5,000. Meritor and Delta have given the Center more than $50,000 over the past five years. Delta is the presenting sponsor of the holiday welcome and the official airline of the Freedom Center.
Varied fundraisers throughout the year help sustain the world class lounges.
“We are proud to continue supporting the Freedom Center with our Holiday Military Salute this holiday season,” said Andrea Newman, senior vice president of government affairs for Delta Air Lines. “This world-class facility is a great respite every day of the year but especially during the holidays.”
The Freedom Center is open from 6 a.m. until the last flight into Detroit arrives at the terminal.
The organization also sponsors satellite hospitality centers at the U.S. armed forces induction centers in Lansing and Troy for use by new enlistees and their families. The centers are open every day of the year, but the traffic is heaviest around the holidays.
Volunteers can park in the Detroit Metro Airport’s free employee parking lot and take a shuttle to their assigned terminal. For more information on helping the nonprofit Freedom Center, please contact www.mifreedomcenter.org.
Helping out would be a very personal way to say “thank you for your service.”