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Book a vacation, help families in need

Date: 11/28/2012

By Carley Dangona

carley@thereminder.com

WESTFIELD — Loose Ends Travel (LET), a Westfield-based online agency operated by a military family, now offers a "Travel 4 Charity" (T4C) program where 10 percent of all profits are donated to the national United Service Organization (USO); or, if travelers prefer, they can donate to their favorite charity.

According to LET owner Amanda Renna, the T4C program has raised $370 in its first months of operation.

"When individuals book through an LET agent, I certainly encourage them to support whichever charity holds meaning for them," she said. "But all online bookings automatically support the USO, since that's where I'm personally invested."

Renna continued, "My husband is in the U.S. Air Force full-time, and much of our family has also served over the years. As such, we have strong ties to the USO. We have a young daughter now, and she's going to grow up in the 'military world,' so to speak. It's nice knowing there are organizations like the USO out there offering support to families like us."

Renna explained that she began the company after losing her job in 2009. "Rather than sitting around waiting for another one to come along, I opted to start my own business. Travel has always been an important part of my life — I was in the Peace Corps and have lived overseas — I've had the fortune of traveling abroad. I just really wanted to help others experience all the world has to offer," she stated.

Renna described the idea for the donation program. "The whole idea behind T4C came about when I booked travel for some coworkers and decided to donate a percentage of the proceeds to Foodshare [their employer]. I thought, 'This is a great way to give back, and possibly drum up some additional business.'"

She continued, "Operating LET isn't my primary job, but I certainly invest the same amount of time as though it were — it's a passion that I hope will someday become fruitful enough to support my family and me."

Cpl. Allan Tracy, U.S. Marines veteran and executive director of the Pioneer Valley USO, located at the Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, explained the distinction between local branches of the USO and the national organization.

"We're a local 501(c)(3) that is responsible to raise funds for this area because we don't receive financial support from the national USO," he said. "Our branch serves Western Massachusetts — We have a wonderful network of people."

The branch was established in 1992. It supports troops and their families at events such as homecomings and deployments. The program also offers outreach services including a food pantry, care packages, dinners and a Veterans Day breakfast.

LET was established in 2009 and offers a full-service of travel options and competitor price-matching. For more information about the company and its "Travel 4 Charity" program, visit www.looseendstravel.com.

For information about the Pioneer Valley USO, visit www.pioneervalleyuso.org.