Veterans Day Nov. 11 is a fitting day to call attention to the newly-expanded military welcome center for soldiers thanks to generous support led by the metro YMCAs.
“Comfort and refreshments, that’s saying a lot, that’s what we provide,” said Director Clyde Tullos. “Everything you see at home, you’ll see here,”
The center operates primarily with the help of volunteers and community donations. The caring volunteers strive to provide a home like atmosphere for the travelers through providing snacks, drinks (provided by Pepsi Bottling Group), internet usage (provided by BOINGO), games, flat screenTV usage, and more.
Supporting soldiers is in keeping with the Y, which is committed to youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Today, (Nov. 11) is the day the nation honors its brave veterans.
Families are as welcome here as the uniforms are, said Tullos.
Soldiers can find soda, coffee, juice, Girl Scout cookies, and chips there. Hygiene items for both men and women are accessible.
Military wives and children frequently take advantage of the games, treats and camaraderie at the expansive, 5,000 square-feet, Welcome Center.
At other times, military personnel waiting for a flight land at the center to pass time and find some friendly faces. There are even seven cots available for soldiers stuck in the airport overnight. It is hoped there will be more available down the road.
Flat screen televisions hang in the center, ideal for sports aficionados. There are X Box electronic games for players “young at heart.”
There are many soft, comfortable couches, plus play areas for children.
Tullos pauses during the interview momentarily to wish a Fort Sill soldier “God speed” during his travels.
Tullos, a retired military man, is a perfect center host, with his warm personality and quick wit.
An average of 500 soldiers pass weekly through center, which is open daily. The graveyard, midnight to 6 am shift has not yet attracted any volunteers, but someone is there at all other times.
Signs are in the main airport and announcements are made over the airport speakers many times a day.
Oklahoma Blue Star Moms chapters founded the center, and with their tireless volunteerism and community recruitment efforts, it has continued to grow in appeal. The center’s expansion has been led by the YMCAs, with a major contribution from the Will Rogers World Airport, which charges just $1 annually for the space. Nevertheless, it is a joint effort which continues to attract partners and other community support.
Ultimately, Tullos says plans are to move the center in a new airport building to be constructed in the future.
The center is in the Air Cargo area about 200 to 300 meters east of the main airport building. Prominent Signs, particularly in the luggage area, direct seekers to its location.
Soldiers can be picked up/dropped off by car or bus. A car can pull up right in front of the center, by following some specific instruction.
Cash donations, in particular, are needed, said Tullos. “Because then we can get exactly what we need.”
While the thought is greatly appreciated, individual food offerings cannot be accepted due to military restrictions. However commercially sealed food contributions are allowable, he said.
DIRECTIONS TO YMCA MILITARY WELCOME CENTER :
Traveling on I-35, take either I-240 west or I-40 west
From I-240 west, take the S.W. 59th Street exit. Turn left at the light, heading west toward the airport.
Alternatively, from I-40 west, merge with I-44 West. Take the S.W. 59th Street exit and turn right heading west toward airport.
Once on S.W. 59th heading west, pass through the intersection with Portland and travel until you get to Air Cargo Road and turn left. You’ll see a sign for it.
Follow Air Cargo Road as far as you can go. You’ll pass by several buildings and the post office. The road winds behind one of the airport parking garages to a set of cargo bays.
The Welcome Center is located in cargo bay O. There will be a banner hanging in front of it.
For further information, contact Tullos at (405) 535-7199. Information is also available at the web site, www.ymcaokc.org.