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:


About Operation Gratitude

Operation Gratitude annually sends 200,000+ care packages to Veterans, First Responders, New Recruits, Wounded Heroes, their Care Givers, and to individually named U.S. service members deployed overseas and their families waiting at home. Each package is filled with food, entertainment, hygiene and hand-made items, as well as personal letters of support. Our mission is to lift the spirits and meet the evolving needs of the Military and First Responder communities, and provide volunteer opportunities for civilians anywhere in America to express their appreciation to all who serve our nation. Each package contains donated product valued between $45 and $100 and costs our organization $15 to assemble and ship. Since its inception in 2003, Operation Gratitude volunteers have shipped more than 1.6 Million Care Packages.
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