Operation Gratitude

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Beanie Babies

Battalion Buddies: Supporting the children of deploying troops

Hi Brave Young Warrior:
 I am your Battalion Buddy!
I am here to cuddle and play with you
while Mommy or Daddy is away!
 
And my friends at Operation Gratitude
will be sending a little something to
Mommy or Daddy, too!

Having already shipped more than 600,000 care packages to service men and women deployed in combat zones, Operation Gratitude is pleased to announce the launch of “Battalion Buddies” — a new program designed to serve and encourage the young children of deploying troops.

In cooperation with Family Readiness Officers and battalion leaders nationwide, Operation Gratitude will begin providing special stuffed toys – known as Battalion Buddies – to the sons and daughters of U.S. military personnel as their units prepare to deploy.

“Our hope is these gifts will offer some degree of comfort to children while their moms and dads are far away, serving their country,” explained Operation Gratitude founder, Carolyn Blashek.  “We want the children to know that they too have caring friends across the country who are aware of their sacrifices and send their appreciation.”

Aided by an initial donation of 28,000 stuffed toys hand-made by employees of the McKesson Corporation, and a follow-up donation of the cards by Tobu Print Group, Operation Gratitude was inspired to provide Battalion Buddies by the Commanding Officer of the National Guard armory in which the group operates.  LTC Angel Ortiz, seeing the McKesson stuffed animals during a recent Care Package Assembly, asked whether Operation Gratitude could donate some for his units that would soon deploy.

“I realized these cuddly animals would be a perfect item for the children to hug as they were about to say ‘Good-bye’ to their parent,” said LTC Ortiz.  “In addition, the animals would be a beautiful gift from the American people to say ‘Thank You’ to the military children who serve our nation in their own special and courageous way.”

As with its Care Packages to deployed troops, Operation Gratitude’s Battalion Buddies program will provide every American opportunities to encourage the children of troops serving in combat by donating stuffed toys and contributing funds.

A great volunteer activity with kids, friends and/or co-workers is to make a Battalion Buddy from a kit!  Kits to make stuffed animals can be found online.  One such website is Bday Bears.

Those wishing to donate brand-new stuffed toys (ready-made or from a kit) to be used as Battalion Buddies may send them to the following address: 

Operation Gratitude
17330 Victory Boulevard
Van Nuys, CA 91406
Attn: Battalion Buddies Program 

Financial donations are welcome and may be made online here: Donate to Battalion Buddies or by check made payable and addressed to:

Operation Gratitude
16444 Refugio Road
Encino, CA 91436

U.S. Military: We are happy to send the Battalion Buddies to all the children of a deploying or deployed unit upon **request from the rear detachment and/or family readiness officer. Please have the command contact us at BattalionBuddy@gmail.com  so we can make arrangements directly with them for a shipment. (At this time, we do not have the resources to send the Buddies to individual children.)

Looking for more ways to support the troops? Visit our website or click on 10 Easy Ways to Support the Troops

THANK YOU for your generosity and support — we couldn’t do what we do for the troops and military families without YOUR HELP!

**Please Note: We greatly appreciate the service and sacrifice of all military families, but the specific intent of Battalion Buddy packages is to provide comfort to those children who will not get to see their parent for a long time and need something to hold on to. Please understand our very limited resources limit our ability to broaden this program at this time.

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NY Brownie Troop Creates Special Thank You Cards

By:   Kelly Martinsen, Brownie Card Project Leader & Guest Blogger

Long Beach, New York Brownie Troop 2166 got together and made cards for the troops who are serving overseas.  These cards expressed the girl’s thanks and praise.  Along with those cards the girls decided to include boxes of their world famous cookies for the heroes who received their cards.

This effort started as a simple gratitude project to recognize the sacrifices that one person can make for the good of so many.   But it turned into a beautiful sharing and learning experience as well when each girl shared their card with one another.

One little girl said, “You know my grandpa was a soldier in Korea”.
“So was mine”, another girl quickly responded, adding that “he doesn’t really speak about it much”.   “My uncle has medals—lots of them!”
“My mom’s friend is in Afghanistan but she is coming home after Christmas.”
And so on.

After each girl spoke of their personal stories,  they all took a moment to talk about wars of the past and the current unrest in the various regions where our troops are deployed and the hardships they may be facing.   It was a terrific learning experience for these girls.

History, bravery, thankfulness, selflessness and love of one’s country were taught on that day utilizing just one phrase, “United States Service Member.”

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Presents ready for troops, but need postage

Charity organizations across the country have been collecting everything from blowup reindeer and hand-knit scarves to mp3 players and guitars all year long, planning to brighten the holidays for troops deployed far from home.

The task at hand is finding enough money to ship the gifts overseas, organizers say….

…Master Sgt. Michael Goza has been deployed in an undisclosed location overseas since May 2010 and will not return home until January. He will miss his traditional holiday celebrations with his wife and three daughters. In June, he received a care package from Operation Gratitude and says the items inside made him and the rest of his unit very happy.

“Believe me, we really do enjoy getting some of the things from home, no matter how small or how big,” Goza says.

Operation Gratitude focuses on sending smaller packages to individual servicemembers overseas. Based in California, the group sends 100,000 packages a year, each containing 150 small items that can be shared with the recipient’s unit, says Carolyn Blashek, the organization’s founder and president.

Including expenses such as storage, forklifts, communication and security, each package costs about $15 to ship, she says. Shipping is much less than what Give 2 The Troops pays because Operation Gratitude sends significantly smaller boxes.

This year, each holiday package includes a hand-knit or crocheted scarf, blank holiday cards for the servicemember to send home, beef jerky, protein bars, energy shots, DVDs, socks and more.

Because Iraq and Afghanistan are Muslim countries, pork products, alcohol and overly religious items cannot be sent, Blashek says. Each box includes a small stuffed animal, which can be given to local children. This encourages the children to tell troops where bombs and terrorists are, Blashek says.

Dec. 11 will be Operation Gratitude’s last shipping day, on which it will ship its 600,000th box, Blashek says. Each milestone box goes to a randomly selected servicemember with a dramatic surprise such as keys to a new SUV or a vacation in the Caribbean.

“It’s really a celebration of the support the country has for the troops,” Blashek says.

“All of your gifts bring smiles and sometimes tears to everyone that receives them,” Goza says.

For the full article and great photos, check out:  http://www.usatoday.com/yourlife/mind-soul/doing-good/2010-11-29-sharing-troop-gifts_N.htm

 

Operation Gratitude Volunteers Assembling care packages

 

 

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150,000 Troops Still in Harm’s Way

From time to time, I like to share letters from our troops to offer a glimpse into their lives and circumstances, and to convey their thoughts on the importance of our care packages.   Today, however, I am making an exception to pass along a note from one of our volunteers:

“Today I awoke dreading my errand-filled day.   The refrigerator was empty, the car’s air conditioner only blew hot air, I had to run to the post office to mail a package to my son at college, and then return home in time to meet the plumber who was scheduled to clean the drain from our washing machine.   Before running out, I slumped down at the kitchen table to sip coffee and catch up on my emails when I saw a reminder from Operation Gratitude about the Holiday Drive.

I am not sure why it stood out among all the clutter.  Maybe it was the fact that today was Veteran’s Day.  I started thinking about another email you had sent a couple of weeks ago from one of our brave warriors stationed in Afghanistan.  I searched through my Operation Gratitude folder and browsed through some of the other emails I had saved.

One letter written last summer read:
“Life here (AFG) is HOT.  We have seen the temperature reach as high as 148 degrees with dust  storms so bad that you couldn’t see your hand with arm extended.  We are a tight group of about 15 people so we work, eat and sleep within one  small area. It’s very common to have rockets and mortars shot at us at night, but we don’t get too concerned beca use the enemy is not very good at aiming.  We wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of  explosions and get into our reinforced bunkers and shoot back. We are much better at aiming…. I am married to a beautiful woman and have 5 children. My youngest will soon turn one.  I missed her first words, her first steps and a long list of other firsts that I only smile about through pictures, but I smile the most because I am here and I know that she is safe at home because of what we do. K.C. USMC”

I know he didn’t intend his letter to be a vehicle that would tug at my own guilt, but it did.  Here I am worried about an empty refrigerator and a broken air conditioner while he was protecting me in 148 degree temperatures.  I am sending packages to my son having fun at college yet this soldier hadn’t seen his new baby girl for months.  I am fretting about clean clothes and he is hunkered down enduring violent dust storms while being shot at by the enemy.

Then I found the email that really got to me:
“I am one of those single soldiers with no parents back home.  I hear from a friend or two every other month, but that’s about it.  I do get bills as I have them sent here in Afghanistan since I have no one back home and when I get notified of mail it is usually a bill or advertisement…. It was very uplifting to get your package with so much stuff to share with others,  ranging from munchies, toiletries, stationary, reading materials and wow, even an Eric Clapton t-shirt.  What you do is more appreciated than I can say and we’d like to help keep you going .  We were wondering if we could send a check or something to Operation Gratitude?  MSgt D”

He was wondering if he could send us a check!  Living on a soldier’s pay, defending my life, my children and my country and he wanted to know if he could send a check to Operation Gratitude.  It was then I vowed to start volunteering again. Enclosed, please find my donation and you have my promise to stay involved.  It is the least I can do for our heroes.
Best wishes, Dale O.”

With minimal media or political attention paid to the two on-going wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is easy to forget about our troops and simply focus on the holidays.  However, while we gather with family to carve the Thanksgiving turkey, 150,000+ of our brave troops journey out on dangerous patrols in the relentless pursuit of those who would deprive us of our liberties.  

We need your help and generous financial support to make certain every Soldier, Sailor, Airman and Marine serving in harm’s way knows we appreciate their sacrifices.   We must NOT forget them during the very time of year that is most painful to be away from home: The Holidays.

When Operation Gratitude began we were able to mail a package brimming with donated goods for $7.75.  Now, with increased postage rates and a crippled economy (forcing us to purchase supplies and services that were previously donated), our new cost has almost doubled to $15 per package.

We thank you for your enthusiastic support of Operation Gratitude through the years.  With your kindness we have been able to send more than 580,000 care packages individually addressed by name, to our Military men and women in combat.  We have let them know that someone, somewhere DOES care about them.

If you think your donations aren’t life changing, please read the re-print of a letter I received from a First Sergeant and sent to our supporters a few years ago.  It was about a soldier who planned to commit suicide on Christmas Day but changed his mind when he received our Operation Gratitude care package on Christmas Eve.  I then received a follow-up letter a little over a year later.  You can read both letters here: The Power of a Package.

There are still 150,000+ Americans deployed in harm’s way.

They give so much to us and ask nothing in return.

Please make sure that every deployed service member knows that someone at home cares about him or her this Holiday season.  Help us send at least 50,000 Holiday Care Packages in the next 4 weeks.

I know in these economic times, generosity comes at great sacrifice.  But our sacrifices pale in comparison to theirs.  In good conscience, how can we not dig a bit deeper if only to send a token of the appreciation we feel?

God Bless all of you and your loved ones.  I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support.  Have a safe, healthy and joyous holiday season.

To donate online, please click here: Donate

To donate by check, please make payable and mail to:
Operation Gratitude
16444 Refugio Road
Encino, CA 91436

To donate stocks or for other donor information, please email cblashek@gmail.com

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10 Ways to #SOT (Support Our Troops) in November

With Veterans Day and Thanksgiving this month, November is the perfect time of year to express our gratitude to the courageous men and women of the United States Military. Here are 10 simple, yet meaningful ways you can say “Thank you.”

1. Nominate a Hometown Hero Online & Donate Wish List Items at Victory Motorcycle Dealers:

~Drop off donated items and receive a free Victory Military Salute pin.
~Nominate a true Hometown Hero with your own video that tells us why he or she is special.
~Vote for the video of your favorite hero, and the Hometown Hero with the most votes will receive a free Victory motorcycle!

2. Order personalized, Holiday Photo Cards and 10% of your order will benefit Operation Gratitude.

3. Keep knitting and crocheting those beautiful scarves.  Nothing sends warmth and love like a hand-made item!

4. Write Letters to our Troops!!
Teachers: Request free greeting cards for coloring by your students to say “Thank You.”

5. Order Magazine subscriptions for yourself, for the troops or as gifts and 40% of your order benefits Operation Gratitude.

6. Great Ideas page: Get an early start on all your Holiday Gift shopping on the Operation Gratitude site!
Children’s clothing, jewelry, patriotic and holiday merchandise, salsa, chocolate fudge, art, electronics, boots, party supplies, books and Operation Gratitude apparel can be found all on one page — and all purchases benefit Operation Gratitude!

7. Recycle Cell Phones

8. Donate your old vehicle: car, boat, RV, motorcycle

9. Send your Beanie Babies, WebKinz and Halloween Candy: Put smiles on our troops’ faces and help them put smiles on the faces of children in Afghanistan.

10. Donate $15/package to ship a personalized Operation Gratitude Care Package to a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine serving in harm’s way this holiday season. Let them know they are not forgotten.

If you would like to make a donation in someone’s honor or memory, beautiful tribute gift cards are now available.

And last but not least, we have a treat for you:  We are giving YOU 5 chances to win 5 great prizes in the “Guess the Candy Weight 2010″ Contest.   How much Halloween candy do YOU think Operation Gratitude will receive this year?  Let us know and the 5 closest guessers will win very exciting gifts!  Check it out: Guess the Candy Weight 2010

The Operation Gratitude volunteers have already started assembling and shipping the Holiday Care Packages!  We appreciate all who have contributed in any way to making these packages so personal and special. We still have 40,000 more packages to go, so please continue to support our efforts in any way you can!

All our best wishes for a joyous and healthy Holiday season.

The Operation Gratitude Team

Operation Gratitude Volunteers

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WE NEED YOUR HELP!

Operation Iraqi Freedom has officially transitioned to Operation New Dawn.  Yet, 50,000 Soldiers remain in combat-ready mode in Iraq, 100,000 troops are currently deployed in the Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan combat zone, and tens of thousands more are serving in the Persian Gulf, Kosovo, Bosnia, Africa, the Middle East and other hot spots around the world.

Operation Gratitude continues to support the hundreds of thousands of military men and women deployed in harm’s way.  Your participation is needed more than ever to help send 50,000 Holiday Care Packages filled with respect and appreciation.

“ThousandReading Letters of miles away in hostile territory and cut off from the comforts and communication we all take for granted, our troops often feel that Americans at home no longer remember or care about them,” said Carolyn Blashek, founder of Operation Gratitude.  “As the war in Afghanistan surges into its 10th year, and U.S. Soldiers continue to face down an enemy in Iraq, we need to reassure our Military that they are not forgotten, especially during the most difficult time of year away from loved ones: The Holidays.”

There are many ways you can help. The most urgent needs are for financial donations to pay for postage, personal letters, hand-made scarves and Beanie Babies/WebKinz/Trolls.   We have heard from many service members that they give the stuffed animals to the local children, who in turn provide information on where IED’s (bombs) are hidden.  As one stated: “Not only are you putting smiles on our faces, you are saving our lives.”

For information on planning fundraisers and other ideas, check and “Like” our Facebook pages: www.facebook.com/OperationGratitude and www.facebook.com/HalloweenCandy, visit the Website at www.OperationGratitude.com or email opgrat@gmail.com.

Each package is addressed to an individual Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine by name.  Every donation of $15 sends another package containing over 50 items of snack foods, entertainment products, toiletries and personal letters of appreciation that put smiles on our troops’  faces.

*The contents of a typical Operation Gratitude care package include:
The U.S. Constitution
3-5 Personal Letters plus the Operation Gratitude Greeting Card
The Operation Gratitude Magazine
UFC Fight DVDsoldier-1scarf_2010
TV/Movie DVD and a Musical CD
Box of Girl Scout Cookies
Hand Made Scarf
Beanie Baby
Deck of Cards
Bag of Beef Jerky
Cough Drops
Sunscreen
Toothbrush, toothpaste, Mouthwash
Deodorant
Motorcycle/Auto Magazine
Lip Balm
Several Assorted Candies, Fruit Roll Ups
Emergen-C Packets
Coffee
Energy Drinks
Power Bars
Pack of Greeting Cards, Pens
Pistachio Nuts
T-shirt or Baseball Cap
Tins of Mints
Packs of Gum
Skin Care Products
Cereal
Deck of Sports Cards
Batteries
Laundry Detergent
Hand Sanitizer; Wipes
Body or Hand Warmers
Beer Nuts
Foot Care Products

Your donation of just $15 will send another Care Package with all these items and more!   We know times are tough, but our troops deserve your “Thank You!”  Please sponsor as many packages as you can for the Holidays.

Online donations can be made here: $15 per Package

Checks or money orders can be made out and mailed to:
Operation Gratitude
16444 Refugio Road
Encino, CA 91436

*A full listing of Corporate Friends and Sponsors is on the website.

For more information, visit:
www.OperationGratitude.com
www.facebook.com/OperationGratitude
www.twitter.com/OpGratitude
www.facebook.com/HalloweenCandy

Creative ways to help can be found on the Great Ideas page.

Thank you for your support!

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