Operation Gratitude

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Doing What We Can to Help our Heroes and Their Families

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Jeffrey Alexander.

Many U.S. Military veterans and their families are facing extraordinary financial hardships during this time of worldwide economic upheavals. In late 2011 Businessweek reported that the job crisis is dire, citing for example that the youngest of veterans, aged 18 to 24, had a shocking 30.4 percent jobless rate in October, way up from 18.4 percent a year earlier.

Joblessness often leads to homelessness and our veterans are not immune from this frightening reality. 

According to the Veterans Administration: “Current population estimates suggest that about 107,000 veterans (male and female) are homeless on any given night and perhaps twice as many experience homelessness at some point during the course of a year. Many other veterans are considered near homeless or at risk because of their poverty, lack of support from family and friends, and dismal living conditions…”

While we can’t solve all the problems our veterans and their families might face, we want to offer support and encouragement where we are able. For the past several months, in cooperation with the leadership and chaplain corps of National Guard units nationwide, Operation Gratitude has assembled and distributed thousands of Military Family Care Packages (MFCPs) to Soldiers who cannot find civilian jobs and/or who are homeless, living in cars.

Additionally, MFCPs have been delivered to homeless veterans organizations and VA hospitals.

These care packages contain donated non-perishable food; personal hygiene products (shampoo, conditioner, lotion, etc.); household items (soaps, detergent, etc.); gift cards to stores like Target, Walmart, CVS and Walgreens; toys for children; clothing and more, valued at over $100 per package.

With generous assistance from our corporate sponsors and individual donors, we will continue to support deployed troops serving in combat zones and on Navy ships. We will also continue helping veterans and military families — with MFCPs, Battalion Buddy packages and Wounded Warrior packages — as long as there is a need.

Please consider joining our efforts to support these heroes who have selflessly given so much of themselves fighting for our country. Online financial donations may be made here: Donate Now.

For more specific information regarding the types of in-kind donations we accept for the MFCPs, please send an email inquiry to opgrat@gmail.com.

THANK YOU!

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Troops to Troops: Gifts of Caring for Our Military

To Girl Scout and Brownie Troops Across the U.S.A.:

We are grateful for the Girl Scout and Brownie troops that help us send Girl Scout cookies to our courageous deployed troops. We enjoy working with the Girl Scouts during their Cookie Pre-Sales and Booth Sales to ensure that we can include one or two boxes of Girl Scout cookies in each of the 100,000+ Care Packages we send out during our Patriotic Drive in the Spring and our Holiday Drive in the Fall-Winter.

To increase your sales, and bring smiles to the service members deployed overseas, you can suggest that buyers purchase extra boxes to be donated to the troops. Once you have collected all the donated boxes, please deliver or ship them to Operation Gratitude and we will take care of sending them overseas in our individually addressed care packages.

In the past, our recipients have enjoyed the personal notes that the Girl Scouts (or the donors) have attached to the boxes (2″x 4″ mailing labels work best), and we encourage you to do that again. Please be sure the notes are visible for screening, are addressed generically (Dear Brave One, Dear Hero, etc.), and are upbeat and positive. Please see our Letter Writing flyer for more information: LETTER WRITING

Upon a donor’s request, we will provide an Operation Gratitude acknowledgment for an individual donation of 50 boxes or more. If donors request a receipt from Operation Gratitude, we recommend that you have a triplicate receipt book–give one copy to the customer; keep one copy for your records and send the third copy to us so that we can send an acknowledgment to the buyer. Please be sure to include the donor’s name and full mailing address on the receipt. Please mail the receipts (but NOT the cookies) to:

Operation Gratitude
16444 Refugio Road
Encino, CA 91436

While we know that Thin Mints and Peanut Butter Patties are extremely popular, we respectfully request that you do not send us those varieties, as we cannot send chocolate products to the desert during the summer. The Caramel Delites (or their equivalent) are fine.

NOTE: If your Girl Scout Council is working directly with Operation Gratitude, please check with your Gift of Caring representative for any special information pertaining to your regional program.

You might also want to reference our10 Ways to Helpflyer and ourTroops to Troopsflyer, too. If you modify the flyers in any way, please email them to us first for approval before making copies — opgrat@gmail.com. We can also provide black and white versions of the flyers and additional photos of troops with their Girl Scout cookies.

Please plan to deliver or ship the cookies between March 12 and May 21 for the Patriotic Drive and September 15 and December 5 for the Holiday Drive. Please ship cookies to:

Operation Gratitude/California Army National Guard
17330 Victory Boulevard
Van Nuys, CA 91406
ATTN: Girl Scout Cookies
Phone: 262-OPGRAT-1 (262-674-7281)

Depending on the number of boxes ordered, your cookie supplier may be willing to ship directly to us. Please contact them for details. For large orders to be delivered by freight, please have the shipper contact Rich Hernandez for delivery arrangements.

Find helpful shipping tips, cost-saving ideas and important information here: SHIPPING & DONATION INFO.

For in-person delivery, we will accept donations at the armory during our Volunteer Hours of Operation.

Please print and fill out our Donation Form and send it with your cookies so we can mail a letter of acknowledgment and appreciation to your troop. If you want confirmation of delivery on your shipments of item donations prior to receipt of our acknowledgment letter, please use the tracking system provided by your shipper.

For those Girl Scout troops located in the Southern California region, we welcome volunteers ages 12 and up to participate in the assembling of packages at our facility. If your troop is interested in participating, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Penny, at: opgratvolunteer1@yahoo.com and be sure to include “Operation Gratitude” in the subject line. The Volunteer schedule and general information can be found here: http://www.operationgratitude.com/volunteer/volunteer-info-schedule/

We are very appreciative of all your efforts on behalf of our brave U.S. Military Service members. As you can see, we need a LOT of boxes of Girl Scout cookies to meet our goal of one or two boxes in each of the 100,000+ Operation Gratitude packages per year. Please pass our information on to all your Girl Scout contacts and encourage them to work with us as well!

THANK YOU for your support!

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End-of-Year Gifts = Year-Round Smiles

This is the time of year when many Americans start thinking about charitable giving. Your generous, tax-deductible gifts to Operation Gratitude enable us to continue supporting brave Americans – deployed troops, military children and wounded warriors — with care packages filled with thanks, support and love.

When we receive email and letters like this in reply, we are reminded once again about why we do what we do: “Dear       Operation GratitudeI just wanted to say thank you for the support that you give us. I have deployed three times and every time I have sent in Marines’ names — they appreciate the packages that were sent. It really helped my last deployment when I did not get packages from my family. The only packages I got were from Operation Gratitude. The support helps us get through deployments, even through the holidays. Thank you again — we really appreciate the support. Semper Fi! SSgt. R.S.H.”

Consider these simple, yet substantial ways you can help us continue our work:

TRIBUTE CARDS: Make a donation in someone’s honor or memory. Send our lovely Tribute Cards in your Holiday (or other) Greeting cards indicating that you have made a donation to Operation Gratitude in honor of your friends, relatives, business associates, customers, etc.  These make beautiful and very meaningful gifts at any time of year, but especially for the Holidays.

We welcome and appreciate any donation amount. With Tribute donations, we respectfully suggest a minimum amount of $15 to cover the cost of one care package.

Please include the name and address of the person you would like notified (in the designated form field if donating online, or on a note if sending a check), and we will mail a beautiful tribute letter to them; donors will receive a letter of acknowledgment for tax purposes.

BATTALION BUDDY PACKAGES:  Hoping to provide some comfort and encouragement to the youngest of America’s heroes, Operation Gratitude sends special gifts to the children of deploying or recently deployed U.S. service members. A donation of $45 will send Battalion Buddy care packages to three children who will not be with their deployed parents this holiday season.

WOUNDED WARRIOR PACKAGES: Injured service members who are recuperating in Military hospitals or Wounded Transition Units are cheered when they receive our gifts and realize that their fellow Americans are wishing them well in their recovery. A donation of $150 sends ten wounded warrior care packages.

THINK BIG: Want to do more? Your gift of $750 will lift the morale and put smiles on the faces of every member of an entire platoon!

To make your donation today, click here: DONATE NOW

Or mail your donation by check to:

Operation Gratitude
16444 Refugio Road
Encino, CA 91436

Operation Gratitude can also benefit from your stock donations — the IRS allows you to deduct its full market value without paying any tax on the long-term capital gain. For more information, please visit this link: Stock Donations

Last but not least, another option is to consider donating a used vehicle via the Cars for U.S. Troops website — your donations DO make a big difference!

Thank you so very much for your generous support!

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Support the Troops with Pemmican Beef Jerky!

Now through Independence Day, Marfood USA will support deployed U.S. troops with a donation of $100,000+ worth of Pemmican Beef Jerky for Operation Gratitude care packages!

Look for specially marked Pemmican – Operation Gratitude displays in stores! For every bag of Pemmican 3.25oz Beef Jerky you buy during this time period, Pemmican will donate a bag of Beef Jerky to Operation Gratitude!

We are thrilled by this donation because jerky is one of the most requested items by the troops — not only is it delicious, it’s packed with protein and can easily be taken out on missions. But don’t take our word for it! The troops can speak for themselves:

“I received one of the Operation Gratitude packages tonight. I was very surprised and wanted to thank you and the rest of your organization. The guys and I really appreciate your thoughts. The items included were spot on. Being an old country boy, the beef jerky hit the spot. Thanks for what you do for us. V/R, J.C.”

“Well I just want to say that I got your box and I really appreciate the time you took to prepare these items for me and my troops. From the time I put the items out the guys passed by and took them, LOL, and these boys like beef jerky like crazy. Well, I hope to hear from you soon and have a good evening. SGT M.S.”

We are thankful for Marfood USA’s generosity! Please help us THANK them, and let’s make this promotion a big success for our troops!

Don’t forget to find us on Facebook, check out our YouTube Channel and follow us on twitter to keep up with all the ways you can join our efforts to put a smile on every service member’s face! We can’t do what we do without YOU!

When you’re looking for more ways to help support the troops, please visit the Great Ideas page on our website.

P.S. If you have a loved one who is deployed in a combat zone and returning sometime AFTER August 1, 2011, please sign him/her up to receive one of our care packages using our online Request Form. Thank you!

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Precious Treasures: Letters from Kids!

Time and time again, when we hear back from the troops who receive our care packages, they tell us much the same thing — how wonderful it is to hear from children:

“Received your lovely Operation Gratitude parcel today in Kandahar, Afghanistan.  Thank you very much for your kindness to the soldiers. It means so much to us. My favorites were the letters from the children. I have been a soldier for 28 years and have fought in many places. Despite all that, the children’s words always hit a hidden place in our hearts.  May God bless you richly in all you do.  V/R, SGM J.M.”

“…You guys are truly awesome.  I’m happy I received a package from Operation Gratitude.  The letters from the school kids made me proud of serving my country….SPC D.C.”

“… I cannot stress how important this organization is to everyone in the service and how incredibly thankful we are that there are people like you and all of your volunteers here to support us! The best things in any packages are the letters, especially the ones from the kids. Thank you again for all that you do. You guys are the true heroes!  SSgt K.S.”

“…Words cannot describe the joy that I feel when I read the letters from the kids. Their letters will always remind me to be courageous and to always stand tall. I wish to thank every single one of you from the bottom of my heart for your love and support. Keep up the great work and God bless you all.  AT3(AW) R.W.”

Sure, they definitely appreciate the coffee, snacks, DVDs and all the other goodies we pack into their boxes, but the items that have the most lasting impact on these men and women so far from home are the simple drawings and letters of thanks sent from these young Americans they may never meet face-to-face.

What is wonderful is that writing to the troops is something we all can do! We invite students, parents and teachers, as well as scout, youth and community group leaders to organize letter-writing projects so we can be sure to include several of these precious treasures in each of the care packages we send.

WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT:

  • Keep your message upbeat and positive
  • Be thankful–share a little bit about yourself
  • Ask questions; however, do not discuss death or killing.
  • Avoid politics completely and religion in excess.
  • Ask yourself: Will this letter bring a smile to someone’s face?

MORE HELPFUL INFORMATION:

  • Sample salutations: Dear Hero, Dear Brave One, Dear Brave American
  • Include your own U.S. mail or email address so recipients can choose to reply
    STUDENTS: Use first name only plus teacher’s name/classroom and school address.
    TEACHERS: Use your name and contact information on students’ letters.
  • No stamps or envelopes are needed.
  • Hand-written letters or cards are most appreciated.
  • No glitter please.
  • All letters will be screened – please do not seal envelopes.
  • Send multiple letters together in one large mailing envelope or box.
  • If you do not receive a reply from a Service Member, do not be discouraged. Remember: Our troops are busy!


(Download and print our Letter Writing flyer and/or our Letter Writing flyer for Teachers to have these tips and instructions handy.)

Letters may be sent together in one large mailing envelope or box to:

Operation Gratitude/California Army National Guard
17330 Victory Boulevard
Van Nuys, CA 91406
ATTN: Letter Writing Program

Your only cost is in sending the letters to Operation Gratitude.  However, any financial contributions toward the cost of shipping the care packages overseas  ($15/package) would be greatly appreciated.

Be sure to visit the Mail Call section on our website to read the great letters and email we receive from the troops.

THANK YOU for your support of the troops — your thoughtfulness and generosity goes a long way in helping to bring a smile to each of their faces!

Don’t forget to find us on Facebook and follow us on twitter — and please help us spread the word about what we do!

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Patriotic Push for Paperbacks and Postage

Patriotic Push for Paperbacks & Postage! 

Help us collect new & gently used paperback books to send to our troops!
and
Help us raise $$ to pay for the postage to ship our care packages!

Friends: It’s that time of year again! Time for us to get ready to send thousands of care packages to deployed heroes serving all over the world!   We need YOUR HELP to succeed in our mission of putting a smile on every service member’s face!
 
PAPERBACKS: Reading books is a great way to pass the time in the rare moments our service members are able to relax. Let’s provide them with reading material they can enjoy and share with their buddies!  

Specifically, we are looking for:   

  • New and used paperback books in excellent condition
  • Standard paperback size is best
  • All varieties of subject matter; fiction and non-fiction 

Please deliver or ship to:
Operation Gratitude/National Guard Armory
17330 Victory Boulevard
Van Nuys, CA 91406

If shipping, please include this Donation Form in every carton you send us. If making an in-person delivery, please check our Volunteer Hours of Operation on our website before coming by the armory.

POSTAGE: Long-gone are the days of 6-cent stamps! It costs $15 for us to assemble & ship each care package.  Simply put, every dollar raised helps send another care package to the troops!

Here are simple ways you can help raise funds:

  • Donate Now:  online or by mail (send checks to Operation Gratitude – 16444 Refugio Rd – Encino, CA 91436)
  • Recycle Cell Phones: Support our troops and benefit the environment
  • Donate Your Vehicle: Tax deduction for you and funds for packages
  • Visit our Great Ideas Page: Gift cards, clothing, jewelry, party supplies, magazines – all purchases raise funds for care packages

AND WE ALWAYS NEED:

  • Handwritten letters of thanks
  • Beanie Babies or other small stuffed animals
  • Small packages Beef Jerky
  • Energy Bars
  • Individual Packets of Hot Cereal
  • DVDs/CDs
  • Bandana Cool Ties
  • Toothpaste, Toothbrushes, Roll-on Deodorant

Please deliver/ship to same address posted above for books.

Don’t forget to “Like” us on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter! We appreciate your support, and with your help, we are looking forward to another very successful Patriotic Drive! Thank you!!

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