By ALEX MALM When the Rhode Island Military Organization (RIMO) asked the United Service Organizations if they could open a military lounge in Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport a few years ago, the request was ultimately denied because they
When the Rhode Island Military Organization (RIMO) asked the United Service Organizations if they could open a military lounge in Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport a few years ago, the request was ultimately denied because they didn’t think they would have enough use.
RIMO thought differently and made the decision to create the lounge after receiving permission from the Airport Corporation.
Five years later, Dan Evangelista, a volunteer with the organization, called the lounge a success.
“We’ve proved them wrong over the years,” Evangelista said.
Inside of the lounge is a place where active service members, veterans and the people they are traveling with are able to watch TV, have snacks and soft drinks, and relax before their flights.
Almost all of the furniture in the lounge was donated by Cardi’s Furniture, Evangelista said.
The lounge is staffed solely by volunteers. Their main source of funding is through a grant that they apply for every year through the Rhode Island Office of Veteran Services, which helps to pay for the snacks and drinks and some of the insurance they need for the lounge.
They also hold an annual golf tournament that helps to pay for RIMO’s office space on West Shore Road.
Over the years, Evangelista said that they have had thousands of visitors from all around the world, whether it was just to say “hello” and check out the lounge or to stay for a couple of hours.
The states and countries that people visit from are marked with a pushpin on a world map inside the lounge.
“People love what we do and that we are here,” Evangelista said.
But, like most things, the pandemic caused the lounge to temporarily close its doors.
Evangelista said that they had to close in March 2020, and reopened in June 2021.
Since reopening in June, he said that they’ve had about 650 visitors at the lounge.
While people are once again using the lounge, Evangelista explained that the issue they are facing since reopening is not having enough volunteers, which means they can’t be open as often. He said that prior to the pandemic they had just about every shift covered.
Since returning from the pandemic, Evangelista said that they have reduced the hours for the lounge at the recommendation of the Airport Corporation.
Instead of being open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., the lounge is now open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day.
RIMO feels that by reducing their hours it is also easier for volunteers because instead of having to commit to four-hour shifts they only have to commit to three-hour volunteer shifts.
Evangelista said that RIMO is hopeful that they will be able to recruit more volunteers so they can be open during the whole 10 to 7 timeframe and don’t have to be closed due to not having volunteers to fill a particular time block, which is happening right now.
“As a Veteran myself I’m delighted to do this because it’s helpful,” Evangelista said.
Those interested in signing up to volunteer should contact Evangelista at 401-474-4764.
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