A common thread for those who choose a career involving service is a breakthrough moment when they discovered what their calling in life would become.

For Cari Matthews, the revelation came in high school when one of her close friends joined the Army shortly after graduation.


“I wanted to give back to our military and be a part of an organization that was out there taking care of him and all of our troops,” Matthews recalls.

Matthews fulfilled that goal by joining the USO, the leading nonprofit dedicated to strengthening the well-being of the people serving in America’s military and their families.

Today, as USO Delaware’s Center Operations and Program Manager, Matthews works every day to provide “impactful programming and experiences for our service members and their families.”

For that passion and creativity directed at military members and their loved ones, Matthews is the recipient of the 2024 Waste Masters Solutions Hometown Hero Service Award.

Matthews will be honored during pre-race ceremonies before the Würth 400 NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday, April 28, and be presented with a $1,000 check, which has been designated for USO-Delaware.

Matthews, 35, began her service with USO-Delaware as a volunteer in 2014. Four years later, she earned a full-time position overseeing a volunteer force of close to 100 people, maintaining two USO facilities at Dover Air Force Base and managing warehousing operations and donations.

“The USO’s mission is the most important part of what guides my work from day-to-day, in every program we execute at Dover Air Force Base Center and beyond,” Matthews said. “The USO is with all service members and military families from the moment they enlist, through their assignments and deployments, and as they transition back to their communities.”

Two innovative projects have stood out during Matthews’ USO-Delaware tenure:

  • USO Canine Program: The Matthews’ family dog, Ranger, is the first certified therapy dog in the US0 northeast region. Ranger has logged more than 100 hours, working directly with the Chaplain Corps and other leadership on base to help service members during difficult times and to boost morale during stressful times.
    • “Ranger has made such a difference in the lives of the service members that he sees every day at Dover Air Force Base,” Matthews said. “We are so proud of the work he does for service members and military families in Delaware.”
    • Ranger was named runner-up in the 2023 USO Canine Volunteer of the Year voting.
  • Friends on the Flight Line Program: Started in a joint effort with the Chaplain Corps in winter of 2022, Matthews and Chaplain William Guy began visiting on-duty flight line members - who work long hours with few breaks - with some snacks and hot chocolate.
    • “What started out as walking the flight line with a wagon full of treats has expanded beyond what we could have imagined,” Matthews said. “We now offer meals, have a dedicated vehicle, and helping agencies join along to make sure service members are seeing the resources they have available to them.”
    • Visits are made twice a month to flight line workers and the program has been praised by base leadership.

Matthews lives in Smyrna, Delaware, with her husband Jay-T (an Army veteran and police officer), daughter Lucy and Ranger, all of whom will be recognized on stage before this year’s Würth 400. Matthews, who has attended races at the Monster Mile since 2018, will root for three-time Dover Motor Speedway winner Kyle Busch, but her all-time favorite driver will always be Dale Earnhardt Sr.

Matthews also emphasized there are many ways to assist the USO, which has more than 250 USO locations throughout the nation and around the world.

“I encourage everyone to support the people who serve,” Matthews said. “No matter the mission or where they are in the world, all can support our nation’s service members and their families through support of the USO.”

To learn more about the USO’s efforts at Dover Air Force Base, visit www.uso.org/delaware. For more information on volunteering with the USO, visit www.uso.org/volunteer.