Inspiration from a Dedicated Volunteer

We are blessed to have thousands of wonderful volunteers all across the country. They inspire us and we know they’ll inspire you, too. Meet guest blogger, Patti:

In 2013, as I read posts on Facebook thanking our Active Duty U.S. Service Members, I got to thinking about our Vietnam Veterans and found myself wondering if they didn’t perhaps experience just a tad of envy for the appreciation shown to our current Service Members, when they in fact received no gratitude, and often were treated with disdain and hatred upon their return from duty.

It got me thinking and actually made me a bit mad, and even more than that, sad. I asked my husband, David, about it. He was in the Navy from 1967-1974, with two tours of duty on the USS Coral Sea, just off the coast of Vietnam. He replied that yes, there was that twinge of jealousy, but there was even a greater feeling that emerged — a feeling of joy that those serving today are remembered, appreciated, and supported. It made him happy knowing that people expressed gratitude for their service.

At that point I decided it was important that I did what I could so that those currently serving know they are not forgotten, that people back home are “with them,” and that we honor their service and sacrifice. I searched Google to find organizations that would help me achieve my goal, and was thrilled when I came across Operation Gratitude.

That was over four years ago, and since them I have been thrilled to participate with them in sending love to deployed Service Members, as well as to our Veterans and Wounded Heroes. 

To think now, in 2017, we will soon reach the 2 Millionth Care Package Milestone! How exciting is that?

In every Operation Gratitude Care Package there are “Wish List” items like, amongst many other things, Paracord Bracelets, Beanie Babies, and “Handmade-with-Love” Cards. These are the three special areas I jumped on.

While I purchased the cording, it was my Veteran husband who would make Paracord “Survival” Bracelets, and for years I would include 20-30 in each box I sent in.

I started checking out all the local Goodwill Stores, purchasing any “like new” Beanie Babies, and I asked family members, co-workers and friends to do the same.

And then I began making cards. I enjoy “crafting” and making these cards for a special purpose is so satisfying! I invited others to join me, and have a daughter and a friend (herself a Veteran) who consistently help. But I was hoping for more, so I decided to hold a Card Making Event at a local art studio.

We provided all the supplies and opened the doors for six hours, and were pleased with the number of parents who came with their children — all who made cards, drew pictures, or wrote notes. I am sure these were especially meaningful to those who received them.

You can find card-making inspiration and instructions for all skill levels online.

I still donate a boxful of items at least quarterly, but twice now I’ve also spent time and effort in hosting two larger fundraising events: A Wine Tasting in 2015 and a Treats Table in 2017. The Wine Tasting had a ticket fee which brought in donations — with some good wine and lots of great homemade hors d’oeuvres. The Treats Table event was at a local pub, smaller scale, yet more visible to the public. A $10 donation for all-you-could eat goodies, but in retrospect we did learn that bar patrons would have preferred salty, snack items over rich, yummy sweets. Now we know better.

At both of these events we also had a “Balloon Pop,” for which attendees could make a $20 donation to pop a balloon which revealed a gift item inside with a value of AT LEAST $25 or more. We had lots of restaurant gift cards, gas cards, hotel stays, tickets to sporting events, local admissions such as the zoo, art museum, parks and more. All of these items were donated, and it was how we raised most of our money.

Between these two events we brought in just under $6100 to donate to support Operation Gratitude.

For now I will continue to make cards and send in beanie babies and other miscellaneous items, while pondering the next money raising event for Operation Gratitude!

Please check out what my friends and I are doing by following my Wisconsin Volunteers in Support of Operation Gratitude page on Facebook.

Thank you, Patti! Your efforts are proof positive that no matter where you live, there are many opportunities to get involved with Operation Gratitude. We are deeply grateful for your years of creative and generous support!

Find more information and ideas about ways you can say “thank you” any time and from wherever you are, visit our website:

Express Your Thanks!

If you have questions for Operation Gratitude, please send an email to: Info@OperationGratitude.com.

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“Handmade-with-Love” Inspiration: Diane’s Scarves and Handwritten Notes

Here’s a guest blog post and some “Handmade-with-Love” inspiration from one of our many crafty, talented, and generous donors, Diane: 

In 2011 my sister-in-law introduced me to Operation Gratitude’s mission and I embraced the call to action. That year I sent 27 scarves and thank you notes. Since then my contributions have increased and to date I’ve sent 3,817 scarves and handwritten thank you notes!

People ask me how I do it…

The simplest answer is I’m goal oriented and driven to improve and incorporate efficiency in all I do. Early on, I realized by crocheting lengthwise versus width decreased the time spent on each scarf. This adjustment allows me to complete a scarf (approximately 4 ½” by 46”) in about 50 minutes.

Where I don’t cut back on time is with the notes I send with the scarves. Just as my scarves are handmade, EVERY note is handwritten.

Finally, I wrap each scarf and note in tissue paper and tie it with ribbon.

Diane’s scarves — all boxed and ready to be delivered!

It is especially rewarding and an honor to hear from the recipients — active U.S. Service Members, Veterans and even parents of New Recruits who have graduated from boot camp. I’ve become “Facebook friends” with a parent who updates me regularly on his son’s career in the Navy – he was recently accepted to attend the Naval Academy Preparatory School!

Thank you Operation Gratitude for all you do for our communities and great nation! I’m honored to contribute to such an amazing organization!!


Thank you, Diane, and ALL who use their time and talents to make Handmade-with-Love gifts for our nation’s heroes!

For more information and details about Operation Gratitude’s Handmade-with-Love Programs, please visit our website:

Express Your Thanks!

Please let us know if you have questions by sending an email to Info@OperationGratitude.com and include “Handmade-with-Love Questions” in the subject line.

THANK YOU for your support!

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Handmade-with-Love: Drawstring Bags

Are you a crafter? Do you like to sew? If you answered “Yes!” then we have your next Handmade-with-Love project: This fabulous Drawstring Bag! 

Whether you use a simple needle and thread or a modern sewing machine, making a drawstring bag is simple and fun! Every time our troops pull out this bag, they will know they are not forgotten, and that we here at home appreciate their daily sacrifices!

What is a drawstring bag used for? For carrying things, of course!

The bags will be filled with the small important items our troops need at a moment’s notice. And because of your time and effort, those items won’t be scattered at the bottom of their backpack!

This bag made-with-love can be tied to the outside of their pack, on their belt, or simply carried by hand so they always have their items quickly within reach!

How to Make a Drawstring Bag

Great News: You can sew this bag by hand–you do not need a sewing machine! A simple needle and thread works just fine!!

Supplies Needed:

  • 9” x 15” square of Heavy Duty Nylon, Ripstop Nylon or a Cotton/Polyester blend fabric.
  • Please choose fabric that has a “camo” pattern or muted colors like tan, brown, or a shade of military green.
  • Needle and thread to match the fabric. We suggest a heavy duty quilting thread!
  • Thimble to push the needle through multiple layers.
  • One 24″-long piece of 550 paracord with sealed ends. (If you don’t have paracord, a strong piece of lightweight rope works.)

Get Started:

Step One
-Begin by laying your fabric face down.
-Create and pin 1/2″ seams on both of the 9″ sides of the fabric.
-Sew seams.
Step Two
-Lay the paracord at the of the fabric along the 15″ edge.
-Fold the fabric over the paracord by making a 3/4″ seam.
-Tie a good knot on each end of the paracord so it can’t be pulled through the pocket by mistake.

Step Three
-Pin seam before seam before sewing to keep it even.
-Sew seam, making sure to not catch the cord in the stitches!

Step Four

-Fold the fabric in half and turn inside-out.
-Pin along the edges before sewing to keep your edges even as you sew.
-Sew around the bottom and side, using a “whipstitch” to keep your stitches close together. -Remember, your seam needs to be as strong as the material you are using to make the bag…and make sure to not to sew the cord pocket closed.
Step Five
Turn the bag right-side out and you’re done!

TIPS:

-Prefer to sew using a machine? Feel free to take advantage of that time-saver!

-We suggest that you double thread your needle for strong seams! (To double thread your needle, simply thread your needle and pull the thread through until the ends meet. Tie both ends of your thread together making it a double thread!)

-You can make 8 bags out of just ½ yard of material! Fold the fabric to make an 18” x 30” rectangle, fold again to make a 9” x 15” rectangle and cut along the folds. You will end up with 8 pieces that are ready to be made into bags!

-Use 550 paracord for the drawstring. By doing so, they can use that piece of cord in case of an emergency.

-Put some extra stitches in the corners to reinforce them.

-Send the bags to us using our Donation Form — once you fill out the form you will receive shipping instructions. (Please use the “Other Product Items” box to write in the number and description of the drawstring bags you are sending.)

That’s it! THANK YOU for your support!

Do you have additional questions or need help? Send us an email: Kelly@OperationGratitude.com

Want more ideas? Learn about our other Handmade-with-Love Progams here.

Last but not least: Is your loved one deployed? Request an Operation Gratitude Care Package today.

Thank you again for all your generous support! “Busy Hands, Happy Heart!”

 

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We Will Never Forget: Thanking Heroes

“Our country is strong. A great people has been moved to defend a great nation.”
–President George W. Bush


Our country is still strong, and a great people has indeed been moved to defend our great nation. We will never forget, and we will be forever grateful.

We are saying “thank you” to the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way by sending our First Responder Thank You Kits to the heroes who are assisting in the current Disaster Relief Efforts, and to all Firefighters and Law Enforcement personnel nationwide. We continue to send our hallmark Operation Gratitude Care Packages to our deployed Military as well.

If you would like to help us, we welcome your donations of these items:

-Hand/Foot Warmers
-Socks
-Breakfast/Protein Bars
-Jerky
-Body Wash (40z or smaller/Travel Size)
-Disposable Razors (Individually-packaged)
-Cotton Swabs/Q-Tips (Travel Packs)
-5-Hour Energy Shots
-Toothbrushes (Individually-packaged)
-Toothpaste (Travel Size)
-Wet Wipes/Handi Wipes (Individually-packaged)
-Eye Drops/Visine (Travel Size)
-Small Multi-Tools
-Hand Sanitizer (Travel Size)

Find our Shipping and Donation instructions and information here. Financial donations are always welcome and will help defray our shipping costs: Donate Online.

Please send questions to Info@OperationGratitude.com.

Thank you!

(Top photo by Luke Frazza/AFP/Getty Images)

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Operation Gratitude: Disaster Relief Update


UPDATE AS OF SEPTEMBER 21:  
We are now trying to make contact with our Military in Puerto Rico to provide supplies to that region, so devastated by Hurricane Maria.  We continue to send provisions to Texas and Florida.

Thank you again to all who have supported this effort!
~~~~

Friends,

Like you, watching the heart-wrenching scenes from Texas and Louisiana, all of us at Operation Gratitude felt compelled to help. With your generosity, we have been able to provide significant support and supplies to the citizens of the devastated communities.

We have received tons (literally) of donations. We have sent out 5 different shipments totaling 61,164 pounds on 78 pallets to our trusted Military and First Responder contacts on the ground for distribution where needed. More pallets of donations are being readied to ship next week.

Here are pictures of our warehouse and the extraordinary outpouring of volunteer activity this week.

But we are not done!

Now we are tracking Hurricane Irma, projected to make landfall in Florida this Sunday, and another hurricane, Jose, that may potentially hit parts of the U.S. later next week. We have already connected with our Military contacts in those areas and are prepared to help.

We will continue to ship out your donated items (see below for current needs) over the next few weeks to all the areas impacted by the hurricanes. In addition, we will prepare our First Responder Thank You kits to send to the heroes of Texas, Louisiana, Florida and any other U.S. disaster zones.

We urge local volunteers (age 12 and older) to join us at The FOB every weekday from 9am to 4pm, especially this Monday, September 11, our National Day of Remembrance: 21100 Lassen Street Chatsworth, CA 91311. Please dress comfortably (it gets hot in the warehouse) and wear closed-toe shoes (for your safety).

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at info@operationgratitude.com.

Thank you again for your extraordinary kindness that enables us both to lend a hand to our fellow Americans, and to continue our mission to Say Thank You to All Who Serve. I am forever grateful.

Fondly,

Carolyn Blashek, Founder

P.s. Here is the list of current needs:

– Toiletries
– Snack Bars
– Towels
– Wipes
– Jerky

P.p.s. Financial donations can be made here.

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Help for Texas and Louisiana

UPDATE: Thanking Our Heroes — You can help say “thank you” to First Responders assisting with hurricane relief efforts.

We are all watching the ongoing floods and devastation in Texas (and heading to Louisiana…and now with Hurricane Irma on the way, Florida) and wondering how we can help. Through our contacts in the affected areas, we have learned of urgent needs for residents who have been evacuated from their homes, and for the First Responders and Search and Rescue Teams who have been working nonstop for the past several days.

Operation Gratitude will get the first shipment of supplies out by this Friday for the immediate needs, and then will send our First Responder Care Kits to thank the response teams in a few weeks.

Here are three ways you can help now: 9/11/17 — SEE UPDATE HERE

1. Drop off donations of these items by Thursday, September 7* (*Now that the deadline is past, please see the most recent info HERE) to our facility (21100 Lassen Street, Chatsworth, CA 91311) weekdays between 9am and 4pm:

– Hand/Foot Warmers
– Socks of any size and color
– Snack Bars (Breakfast/Protein)
– Jerky
– Body Wash – 4 oz or smaller/Travel Size
– Razors – Disposable
– Cotton Swabs/Q-Tips – Travel Packs
– Tissues – Travel Packs


2. Volunteer to sort and pack donations all weekdays from 9am to 4pm at the FOB: 21100 Lassen Street, Chatsworth, CA 91311. Wear comfortable clothing (it gets hot in the warehouse) and closed toe shoes (for your safety). We have LOTS of work to do and welcome volunteers (age 12 and over) to join us for 15 minutes or five hours!

3. Donate funds to assist us with shipping expenses.

Questions? Send an email to Info@OperationGratitude.com and we’ll reply ASAP.

Thank you for your loving and patriotic support!

 

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One Soldier – One Watch – One Boy’s Hope

Without a doubt, the work Operation Gratitude does would not be possible without the generous help we receive from across the country. Now and then we’d like to introduce you to some of our special donors and volunteers, like Wesley M. Williams, the founder of the ScoutsOn Watch Company, a socially-conscious wooden watch company based in Pittsburgh, PA.

Here, in Wesley’s own words, is the story of how the company came to be:

I was born an Army Brat. I’ll always be one. This label is a badge of honor that has shaped every part of my life.

When I was seven years old, my Dad had to go on a deployment. This was the first deployment when I was old enough to understand that Dad was a soldier and that he was going to be gone for a long time.

Then Dad took off his watch and gave it to me. It was a simple watch. It wasn’t a Rolex. It wasn’t made of gold, but it was the most valuable thing I had ever held.

Dad told me to hold onto it until he got back. He slipped it on my little wrist, and asked me to look after Mom and Sissy (my older Sister) for him until he came home. I remember immediately feeling a soldier’s strength running through me and wiping away my fear.

Through my sniffling, I managed to eek out, “Yes, sir.”

And that was it. My watch had begun. I wore Dad’s watch every day for months. I slept with Dad’s watch, I cherished it, I respected Dad’s watch, and I respected myself for getting to wear it.

We were blessed that Dad eventually came back home, and I got to give him his watch back. My watch had ended, and my love affair with watches had begun.

Not every military family is as fortunate as ours was (our soldier came home — my dad and I are pictured together below). For every story of a Service Member returning home, there are dozens of stories that do not end that way.


Thank you to all who serve. The ScoutsOn Watch Company salutes you.

ScoutsOn Watch’s motto is “Time to Give Back to Veterans.” 20% of the proceeds from each watch is donated to Operation Gratitude to cover shipping a care package to a Veteran: “One Watch. One Care Package.”

The company was created for all of the U.S. Service Members and Veterans who have looked out for us, for all of the “Scouts On Watch.”

Please visit https://www.scoutsonwatch.com/  for more information.

 

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