OperationGratitude

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“My men and I still need every bit of your support.”

A guest post from deployed First Lietuenant John A., who is serving in the United States Marine Corps:

As American service members continue ten more years of commitment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, we cannot help but think:

We are not alone in this fight.

I signed up for duty for a few reasons. I believe in public service, self-sacrifice, and the challenge to do something profound. I found these ideals in the Marine Corps.

What amazes me most, however, is along my adventure I’ve met people and civilian organizations that share my same vision.

Thank you so much OPERATION GRATITUDE!

I first encountered Operation Gratitude on the fallow plains of southern Afghanistan after a long, back-breaking patrol. I returned to my patrol base to find my Marines bright-eyed and full of smiles; something was amiss from our drudging normalcy. 

For the first time in months, and the first time ever for a handful of my Marines, we received packages from another world—home.

My heart immediately melted from the kindness shown by the charity of Operation Gratitude. For the first time since departing home, my Marines changed their socks, ate an American  snack, read a supportive letter,
and laughed at a child’s innocent bravado, such as the letter (pictured, right) from the American boy named Austin who who wished us a happy New Year and wrote that he hoped we would “sevive the whore.”

Those care packages forever increased our morale, changed our outlook, and reset our resolve.

Words cannot express our gratitude as you continue to walk by our side while we continue this fight for ten more years. Thanks again, Operation Gratitude. My men and I still need every bit of your support.

Semper Fidelis.

Editor’s Note: Our country has commited to involvement in Afghanistan for the next ten years – Operation Gratitude’s commitment is to continue our mission as long as any American service member is deployed in a hostile region. Please stick with us…Will you please help us support these heroes? Every donation of $15 pays for our shipping and assembly costs to send another care package — consider making an online donation today: DONATE NOW)

Also — letters like young Austin’s are treasured by the troops who receive them. Writing letters is a way for everyone — young and old! — to be involved supporting our brave military: Write a Letter Today.

THANK YOU for your generous support!

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Partnering with Heroes to Support Heroes

 We are excited to announce a strategic new partnership with veteran-focused disaster relief organization Team Rubicon to send “First Responder Kits” to volunteers assisting with natural disaster and crisis relief efforts world-wide.

The “First Responder Kits” (FR Kits) will be assembled at our headquarters in Van Nuys, CA and shipped to every Team Rubicon volunteer across the country.  Each FR Kit will contain an assortment of useful, donated items placed in an Operation Gratitude drawstring backpack for easy transport at a moment’s notice.

Most of the Team Rubicon volunteers are recent U.S. Military veterans. We sent care packages and supported these heroic service members while they were deployed overseas in combat zones,” says Operation Gratitude founder, Carolyn Blashek. “Now that they are serving our country and the world by assisting with natural disasters and humanitarian relief, we will continue to express our deep appreciation and respect to them through our First Responder Kits.”

Team Rubicon co-founder William McNulty agrees that the partnership between the two organizations makes perfect sense: “Team Rubicon engages U.S. military veterans, many returning home after fighting ten years of war, and offers a renewed sense of purpose for their skills and experiences,” he said.  “The FR Kits will provide our volunteers with essential gear as well as morale-boosting encouragement from fellow Americans who are grateful for their continued service.” (Watch the recent CNN story about Team Rubicon and its co-founder Jake Wood on YouTube here:  CNN Hero: Jake Wood.)

As with our other programs, we will rely on the generosity of the American people — individuals and corporate sponsors — to supply, assemble and ship the initial 5,000 FR Kits by the end of June, 2012.  

We are seeking both product donations to fill the FR Kits as well as financial donations to pay our assembly and shipping costs of $75,000. 

So — by now you may be wondering: How can I help? We are so glad you asked!

The following is our “Wish List” for items we need for the FR Kits: AA and AAA batteries; quick-drying, medium-sized towels; energy bars; sporks (combination utensil/tool); heavy work gloves (size Large); head lamps; safety glasses; all-weather spiral notebooks; pens; Leatherman-style tools; Nalgene water bottles and handmade Paracord ”Survival” Bracelets. (See a Paracord Bracelet pictured, left. Learn more about them here: How to Make a Paracord Bracelet.)

Please consider organizing a “collection drive” to gather FR Kit items for us. (Find an informational flyer about “How to Host a Collection Drive” on our website: http://www.operationgratitude.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/CollectionDrive.pdfProduct donations may be shipped to:

Operation Gratitude/California Army National Guard
17330 Victory Boulevard
Van Nuys, CA 91406
Attn: First Responder Program

Please download, fill out and include a Donation Form in every package you send us. Find important donation and shipping tips here: Donation & Shipping Info

Note: If you want confirmation of delivery on your shipments of item donations prior to receipt of our acknowledgment letter (allow up to 12 weeks), please use the tracking system provided by your shipper. 

Financial donations are welcome and may be made online:  https://www.operationgratitude.com/donate/

Or by check payable to Operation Gratitude and mailed to: 

Operation Gratitude
16444 Refugio Road
Encino, CA 91436 

In keeping with our mission of providing “hands-on” opportunities to say “Thank You” to our nation’s heroes, we encourage our supporters all over the country to make Paracord “Survival” Bracelets to include in each First Responder Kit, as well as in the care packages to deployed troops. 

More information and instructions can be found here: How to Make a Paracord Bracelet.

Thank you for your generous support to make all this possible!

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Happy Anniversary, Operation Gratitude!

On March 19, 2003, Operation Gratitude got its start in the living room of its founder, Carolyn Blashek. Four care packages were shipped that day. Nine years and more than 760,000 care packages later, we thought we would take a trip down Memory Lane to reminisce and appreciate all that has been accomplished thanks to the help, generosity and dedication of countless friends, donors and supporters…

      

Operation Gratitude quickly grew too large for the Blashek home. The charity moved to the California Army National Guard Armory in Van Nuys, CA…

      

SSG Elizabeth Cowie was our “Armory Angel” who made it all possible for Operation Gratitude to use the armory facilities…Here she is (pictured, right) at the armory with her mother…

As more and more volunteers joined in, Operation Gratitude sent more and more care packages…

  

We would finish up at the assembly line and form a human conveyor belt to load up the trucks…

    

…then we’d take the care packages down to the post office…and unload them to be shipped…

    

…and start all over again!

  

While much has changed over the years — we’ve added the Battalion Buddy and Wounded Warrior and other programs – what has not and never will change is our commitment to deployed troops who have volunteered to serve our country. We will continue to honor, thank and support them with care packages lovingly-filled with goodies and treats from home. 

                           

…It is their amazing work and sacrifice that makes our work worthwhile.

Thank you to all our troops, past and present…and thank you to all who have helped Operation Gratitude over the years! 

To get a really good idea of how Operation Gratitude has grown and changed, please watch these “oldie-but-goodie” videos…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02tcb7b34do&feature=plcp&context=C4bcde8cVDvjVQa1PpcFMpZd2Jc6uAR0jBX_okUaiyq6d0CipydeY%3D=640&h=385]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6C7u2d6g2Vs&feature=plcp&context=C4fe777dVAvjVQa1PpcFMpZd2Jc6uAR7cS0ONI3Xdug-1-TZtliO0=640&h=385]

As always, THANK YOU for your support!

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Spring 2012: Scarves for Troops Update!

A guest blog post by Scarves for Troops coordinator, Elaine Campbell:

“…When the Treasure becomes a Memory, the Memory becomes a Treasure…”

It is with warm memories and a heavy heart that I tell you Joan Mazzarelli has passed away. Joan was a true patriot. During WWII she knit sweaters and socks for the troops.  Joan said, “I did it for the boys in WWII and I’m doing it for the boys and girls in Afghanistan and Iraq now.”

Her love and support for our military was unsurpassed. An American flag was flown over an Afghanistan base in her honor. As L.A. Daily News columnist Dennis McCarthy phrased it, “She’s part of the fabric of the U.S. war effort.” Joan warmed many a heart and put smiles on thousands of faces. She was a light in the world and will be greatly missed.

Please take a moment to learn more about this remarkable woman who knit over 550 scarves each year for the past several years to include in Operation Gratitude care packages. Casey Stegall of the Fox News Channel did a wonderful story about Joan in late 2010: http://bit.ly/ybBxb1

We receive so many heartwarming letters from our troops about your scarves — the time and effort we give here at home to make something special for our troops, who risk life and limb for us every day, means so much to them. Your handmade gifts in Operation Gratitude care packages may be the greatest way that we can honor their service and express our support. Thank you for your continued participation! One of our amazing heroes wrote to us upon receiving one of your scarves:

Dear Operation Gratitude: My name is Staff Sergeant (SSG) R.B. from Maryland and I am currently stationed in Kuwait. In one of the packages Operation Gratitude sent to me a scarf was enclosed, so on New Year’s Day I ran a 5k wearing the scarf.

Looks nice on him! Here’s another letter we received:

God does work in mysterious ways. I am currently serving in the Southwest Province of Afghanistan. I received the very nice knitted cap in the care package. It has come at a great time as it is now getting very chilly here in the evenings and morning!   The hat will be put to great use as I sport a “shaved head” hairstyle! I am quite fond of this style of hat. I will wear it proudly. The rest of my team and the soldiers, marines, seaman and airman that we support will certainly partake in the other goodies provided in the box from your organization. God Bless! “Aim High…” Major B.E.S.J. USAF

KNITTING UP A STORM!!!

Knitters and crocheters, you are all such an inspiration. You bring tremendous joy and support to these troops! We received 38,423 “items of warmth” over the 2011 scarf/hat drive. These items, plus those items-in-waiting from the end of the 2010 drive, means we succeeded in our goal of an item of warmth in EVERY box sent during our 2011 Holiday Drive! The conscientious, caring efforts of all knitters and crocheters is an incredibly heart-warming achievement. You’ll read about just a few individuals in this update: selfless, loving people who care deeply about supporting our military, who view receiving a note from a recipient of their scarf or hat, “a rare gift,” to quote one of our cherished knitters.

Meet Lynn Neill (pictured, left), who knit 101 scarves last year. Other members of her family contributed 100 more! Lynn says, “I am on track to match or beat last year’s total for 2012.” Thank you to Lynn and her kin!

Molly Goldblatt (pictured, right) has been a tremendous supporter of Operation Gratitude in a multitude of ways over many years. Besides knitting for the troops and getting others involved knitting and crocheting, she has held fundraisers and book drives, donating countless books to include in our boxes. Many thanks to Molly.

I want to bring special mention to Kelly South whose story we recently featured. Please  read her courageous, inspiring story, written in her own words. She shares her story much better than I can:  “The pain went away, and all I felt was joy…”

Kelly crocheted over 1,000 scarves and hats for Operation Gratitude. Asked why she made this commitment, Kelly responds, “It’s because of what our military does for us. Day in, and day out, they make the ultimate sacrifice and ask nothing in return. They are as selfless as I would strive to be. They are the people we should look up to, and thank each and every single day, for the freedoms we all share.”

Another one of our wonderful volunteers, Julie Riehle, agreed to share her letter to Operation Gratitude founder, Carolyn Blashek, with us:

Thank you for your nice letter re: the scarves I knitted. I am sorry I could not knit more but my husband had a stroke two years ago and I am his sole caregiver, so I don’t have a lot of time. But we spend a lot of time at doctors’ offices and it is a good take along.

My husband was a pilot of a B-24 in WWII I’m the South Pacific. His plane crashed in a rice paddy on his second to last mission. He lost six of his crew but managed to save the rest. He was lucky. He lost his front teeth and almost lost a leg and an ear. To this day he is involved in the VFW and is very into the military.

I am working on scarves for this year and will complete as many as I can. God bless your organization and God bless America.  Sincerely, Julie

She’s a special lady. We thank Julie’s husband for his WWII service and wish him well!

The knitting group from Pinehurst United Methodist Church in North Carolina has been contributing to our troops for years. I wanted to share parts of an email from them:

One of our members just brought in a huge pile of yarn for us to work with for next year.  And she said that she has another pile to give to us!!! So, we keep knitting. A very sweet, wonderful story: One of our members, Charlotte, was in the hospital and then to a rehab facility for convalescence. She is well up in her 80′s, but she is knitting up a storm. She had her neighbor bring in all her finished scarves because she knew we were sending out our last box. Yesterday, one of us visited her and she had another scarf done and was busy working on more scarves for next year. She is quite a neat lady. Well, that is all the news from Pinehurst, North Carolina. Thank you so much for all that you are doing. It is wonderful!

Some things I’ve learned this year as Scarves for Troops coordinator:

1. The best way to attach your personal notes to your scarves is with a piece of yarn through a hole in the note and then tied to the scarf (shown, left). Include your contact information — an email or “snail mail” address — so the recipient can send you a “thank you”! (If you’re uncomfortable using your personal address, feel free to use ours — opgrat@gmail.com — but please also include your full name so we can be sure to forward the message on to you!)

2. Avoid yarn that is very bulky. Even though a scarf is within the size measurements, it can still be a bit too bulky (dense). Be assured, we always do our best to include as many of the scarves as we can. Still, the box is not that large, so please be mindful always of size and density.  The flatter the scarf the better–we fold them about 10″ long and have no more than two inches in depth per box for our knit items. (Rest assured however, when too large for our regular boxes, those items now bring warmth and comfort to our Wounded Warriors.)

Important note on Scarf SizePlease adhere to the following measurements which have been slightly modified: 5-6 inches across, about 48 inches long.  Smaller than that and they look a bit skimpy; longer than that and they’re often too bulky!  No fringe, please.

“The Wide and Thick of it” The photos at right and below are an example of too thick, too wide, too narrow and too long. You can see how a scarf this size (right) really takes up most of the box. Please do not feel downhearted if you sent scarves this size. They are welcome, needed and appreciated by our Wounded Warriors.

“The Wide and Narrow of it” Scarf helpers and models, Myrna and Karen (pictured, left) are holding examples of the wide differences we receive in scarf widths. Between 5”-6” are ideal for the boxes we send. Thank you Myrna and Karen, both for modeling and for the countless hours volunteering at the Armory!!

“The Long and Short of it”  Hopefully your scarves will measure somewhere in between these two (like the one around my neck)!  :-)

3. Many of you are thoughtful to place each scarf in an individual plastic zip-lock bag. However, the bags fill with air and take up too much room in our boxes so I ask that you do not use individual bags. Instead, when mailing to the Armory, please place scarves all together in one large plastic zip-lock or draw-string bag so the scarves remain clean and dry during transit to us and while waiting to be shipped to the troops. Plus, it will save you money on those individual bags! 

4. Fleece scarves and gators made by scout troops and school age children are most welcome. If possible please accompany each one with a note: Made by Troop # …. Or class and age and/or children’s artwork. It makes the occasional imperfection easily forgiven and in fact endearing. However, do not send children’s emails or home addresses. You can use a teacher’s or troop leader’s email address.

5. For lots more information about the Hand-Made Items program, patterns for scarves, hats and Bandana Cool-Ties to knit, crochet and sew, check out our blog posts: Made With Love for Troops and Scarf, Hat, & Cool-Tie Project Details.

5. You may like to subscribe to a free crochet site for free patterns and tutorials: AllFreeCrochet.com
http://allfreecrochet.com/Crochet-for-Charity/Operation-Gratitude

Heading Into Spring!  Our hope is that even though the 2011 Holiday drive has ended, you all will be inspired to keep your hands and needles busy making scarves for the 2012 Holiday Drive. Our goal is to send 50,000 this year!! So, we will surely need your help.

Our storage at the armory is limited until after the Patriotic Drive which ends in June, so please hold on to your completed items. We ask that you please wait until August to send scarves and hats to us.

In the meantime, if you’d like to take a break from knitting/crocheting, but would still like to craft, we have a great project for our spring Patriotic Drive: Bandana Cool-Ties

You all know how hot the desert is in the summer. We want to include Bandana Cool-Ties in our 50,000 Patriotic Care Packages to offer our troops some relief from the blazing hot sun. These items are often worn around the neck while in uniform, so please stick to military colorsPlease see directions below. No need for notes on these (although they would be welcome). Please encourage all groups looking for a fun and worthwhile project to make some cool ties–it goes much faster with a team or a partner. 

If you’re not familiar with what Cool-Ties are, visit this website to see lots of different photos.

These are great to do with a friend or a “team!” You will find your own rhythm and best methods, but here are COOL-TIE DIRECTIONS to get you started:

1. Cut strips of fabric about 6 1/2 inches wide, with the length measurement being the width from selvage to selvage.
2. Sew a small width end, then turn 90 degrees and sew along the whole length side (1/4 inch margin), leaving the last short width end open. 
3. Turn it inside out and iron the creases.
4. Sew (about 13 inches) up from the closed end, across the thin width. 
5. Add in the crystals (aka polymer beads). IMPORTANT:  Be sure the crystals slide all the way down to the seam.
6. Sew across the thin width again to make a pocket for the crystals. 
7. Close the final open thin width end, by tucking in the edges and sewing across.  

For more information and to order the polymer beads: http://www.watersorb.com/polymer_cool_neck_bands.htm

Where to Send: 
Operation Gratitude / California Army National Guard
17330 Victory Blvd.
Van Nuys, CA  91406 Attn: Cool Ties

Note: Please use this Donation Form in whatever packages you send us. Find helpful shipping tips, cost-saving ideas and important information at our blog: Donation & Shipping Info.

If you want confirmation of delivery on your shipments of item donations prior to receipt of our acknowledgment letter (allow up to 12 weeks), please use the tracking system provided by your shipper. 

Lorene VanArk-Miller has graciously agreed to continue to help me with email correspondence. Lorene has been a volunteer with Operation Gratitude since the beginning — as a knitter, Cool-Ties maker and letter writer!! She’s the BEST and knows a lot about the organization!  Please feel free to email her with questions and/or suggestions. Lorene’s email: LoreneM@socal.rr.com

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

With love and gratitude,
Elaine Campbell and Lorene VanArk-Miller
Sharon Howard Scarves for Troops Project Coordinators
LoreneM@socal.rr.com
hebc@sbcglobal.net                                                            

P.S.  If you have not yet donated towards the shipping costs of our care packages and would like to do so it would be greatly appreciated! Please make checks payable to Operation Gratitude, 16444 Refugio Road, Encino, CA  91436 or donate online here: DONATE.

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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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“The pain went away, and all I felt was joy…”

Please take a few moments to read this heartwarming and inspiring story from Operation Gratitude volunteer Kelly South:

Just before Christmas of 2010, I had been looking for a way to volunteer my time. A friend told me about Operation Gratitude, and what they do to support our military men and women. I had never heard of this group, but as I read information on the home page, I knew I had found the right place. I come from a family that has sent countless men and women into battle, and it seemed like a perfect fit for me.

As I looked over the list of projects to volunteer for, I began to become a bit discouraged because many of them required a lot more physical movement than I could do. I suffer from Fibromyalgia, and my days are gauged by how much pain I will have to face every time I roll out of bed. But as I read further, I came upon the link for crocheting and knitting.  

That link would help make 2011 a very special year for me, and for over a thousand of our troops.

Now I had never tried to crochet or knit, but I’m a somewhat intelligent person and figured it just couldn’t be that hard to learn. My only concern would be my hands. How could I do this, when I have to have steroids injected into all of my knuckles every 12 weeks to take down the swelling and pain? Would I be able to push through the pain? I have always said that I would not allow this disease to rule my life, and I was determined to do my best. So, I headed off to You Tube, and watched some videos about how to crochet.

After watching videos for a solid 10 minutes, I decided to give it a try. The first scarf I made took almost six hours to complete – this was going to be a lot harder than I had thought! I decided to have another go at it to see if I could do better, and the second one only took two hours. By the time I made my 10th, I was down to just 45 minutes for each scarf, and I began formulating a plan in my head. If I could make just two or three a day, I might be able to make 700 scarves by the time they would need to be delivered. And that crazy idea made 2011 one of the most satisfying years of my life.

Every day, no matter how I felt, I crocheted. I began to realize that the crocheting was delaying the need for my shots, and actually helped with my overall pain. The more focused I became, the better I felt. Granted, there were days when I couldn’t even open a bottle of water because my hands were so swollen and painful, but still I crocheted. I knew what our troops faced every single day in the war zones, and I knew that my pain would not stop me from honoring them.

Month after month I crocheted, and at the beginning of August, I finally sat down and did a count. To my utter amazement, I had not only made 700, but I had actually made more. I couldn’t believe I met my goal even faster than I ever imagined. As I told my family and friends that I passed 700, they asked how it felt to be done with my project. What they didn’t know was that I still had time before they needed to be delivered, and that I had already set my new target goal to 1000. Off I went.

I made my delivery on November 5th, and with me were my main supporters: My friend Irene Figueroa, who wrote over 1000 letters to attach to all of my scarves. Without her, I would have never been able to crochet as much as I did. If I had had to sit and write those letters, I doubt I would have even made my first goal. My partner Ruth Norris, who helped me pay for the $1500 of yarn and was my biggest cheerleader. And finally, my friend Carol Scott, who allowed me to store the scarves in her garage. I also received yarn and gift cards from countless friends and family to help offset some of the cost.

On the day of delivery, we were asked to transfer the scarves from my tubs to those belonging to Operation Gratitude. It took all four of us, plus a dozen Girl Scouts, almost 45 minutes to get the job done! As we moved them we did a count, and to my utter dismay I had only made 991 scarves and hats. I was just nine short of my goal and not happy about it. Those nine scarves bothered me so much that I returned two weeks later with 15 more scarves, and the feeling of accomplishment finally hit.

I had really done it. I had made my goal. The pain went away, and all I felt was joy. I knew that over a thousand of our men and women in uniform would have that moment of home for the holidays. They would know that they were not forgotten by those of us at home, and how much we truly appreciated all they had sacrificed for us. My biggest hope is that for those few short moments home wasn’t quite so far away.

I have been asked why I would do so much for people I don’t know…Why would someone in my condition work so hard and spend so much? Why would I take a year of my life and crochet? Why do so many?

It’s because of what our military does for us. Day in, and day out, they make the ultimate sacrifice and ask nothing in return. They are as selfless as I would strive to be. They are the people we should look up to, and thank each and every single day, for the freedoms we all share.

When people ask those questions of me, my answer back to them will always be the same: “Why wouldn’t I?” –submitted by Kelly South

THANK YOU, Kelly!!

Kelly used the following YouTube videos to teach herself these crochet basics:
Very Beginning Chain
Simple Single Crochet Stitch
Double Crochet Stitch

MORE RESOURCES & INSPIRATION:
Learn How to Crochet
Learn How to Knit
Scarf, Hat, Cool-Tie Project Details: Materials, Size, Patterns
Making Scarves: How To’s and Tips!
Knitting at 98! Meet Joan Mazzarelli!

Have YARN, but no TIME to make scarves/hats? We have volunteers like Kelly who would appreciate donations of yarn to help them continue their projects! Please let us know if you would like to contribute in this way to our Scarves for Troops Program! Send an email to opgrat@gmail.com. THANK YOU!

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Email from an “Annoyed” Army First Sergeant…

Our care packages certainly aren’t meant to annoy the recipients, but somehow we managed to do just that recently:

I am writing this a week before Christmas, from ‘an undisclosed location in southwest Asia’. As I’m writing this, I am a bit annoyed at your organization. Do you have any idea how hard it is to keep up the façade of a tough old Army First Sergeant with tears streaming down your face?

When I arrived on duty this morning, I was greeted by a package on my desk from Operation Gratitude. I am happy to say this package was not the first of this type that my Soldiers and I have received over the past few months. Each time, I am TOTALLY overwhelmed at the support shown to us, complete strangers, by various individuals and groups of individuals, also complete strangers. If ever there is doubt where the true beauty and strength of our country lies, it’s in men and women such as those comprising your organization, who readily and unselfishly give of themselves to help others. 

I opened the package, more out of curiosity than out of need for the items contained therein. On top, I found a stack of cards and notes and your magazine. As I started reading the notes…I simply cannot describe the feelings. I was completely overwhelmed at the  expressions of support, appreciation and well-wishes. The cards and notes from children and young people were especially touching as I realize they represent future generations of Americans…and realize they are being raised to recognize, understand, and appreciate important concepts such as sacrifice, courage and honor.

As I read your letter in the beginning of the magazine, I was deeply touched that you not only felt the initial compassion when you encountered that Soldier returning to the ‘war zone’… but that you invested the time, expense, interest, dedication, passion and personal and family sacrifice to do something about it…and something that was/is so meaningful to so many.

I think perhaps the most touching thing of all is to see the pictures of the volunteers of your organization…people from all walks of life…multiple generations…united by a love for our country and a dedication to purpose. Trust me when I say, the feelings are indescribable.

Thank you so much for your dedication. A BIG THANK YOU to your people and your organization for all of the hope and renewed faith you distribute with your packages. The physical items contained in the packages are much appreciated, but the tremendous intangibles contained within are priceless. I truly hope and pray that our Lord will bless each and every one of you during this holiday season…May each of you experience an extra measure of peace and joy during this festive time, knowing the smiles that you have spread to the most remote and unsettled of regions.

With warmest regards this holiday season,
L.L.H.
1SG, USA
Afghanistan

Thank YOU, 1SG H., and all who serve alongside you! We are honored to be able to support you by sending care packages filled with goodies, letters, thanks and love from home!

And to those of you on the Home Front who have made this all possible — the volunteers, donors, knitters, letter writers, recyclers, collectors and supporters — our deepest thanks to each and every one of you. We could go on and on singing your praises and expressing our gratitude to you…but we feel “Annoyed Army First Sergeant” says it best, so we say: “Ditto that!”

All our best wishes for a very blessed, healthy and peaceful New Year to one and all! We look forward to continuing this journey with you in 2012!

Love,
The Operation Gratitude Team

(Note: To receive email notices regarding new Operation Gratitude blog posts as they are published, please subscribe via the link to the right.)

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Celebrating Another Operation Gratitude Milestone

All across the country, we will have cause to celebrate on Saturday, December 17, 2011 as the 750,000th Operation Gratitude Care Package rolls off the assembly line at the National Guard Armory in Van Nuys, California!

Up to 1000 volunteers and supporters are expected to join the Operation Gratitude Assembly Day for this Milestone Celebration. Volunteers and Supporters like you make all this possible. We could not touch the lives and hearts of so many of our courageous service members and their families without you.

With your help this past year, we launched two new programs: Wounded Warrior and Battalion Buddy Care Packages. Due to the popular demand for these packages, Operation Gratitude shipped a record 150,000 care packages in just one year…. This brings us to our 750,000th care package!

The Assembly Line will open at 9 a.m. We expect the 750,000th package to hit the line at around 11:15 a.m. PST, to the cheers of up to 1,000 Volunteers, Military members, Dignitaries, Legislators, and Celebrities. When that happens, we will halt all activity, gather everyone together, and start the Celebration!

In addition to the standard items and personal letters provided by more than 250 corporate donors and by individuals and volunteer organizations across the country, the 750,000th Care Package will include Top Secret Surprises for a Top Secret Warrior, brought to us by none other than Santa Claus. Expect exciting and classically American gifts donated by our Corporate Partners to be put in the Milestone box. Six previous Operation Gratitude milestone packages contained the keys to new vehicles (motorcycles and SUVs)! A special delivery of the 750,000th Package is being arranged as we speak.

As part of the Milestone Celebration, there will also be a variety of delicious product samples and a hearty lunch, provided by Corporate and local business donors.

Volunteers (ages 12 years and up) are invited to assist in the on-site care package activities.

Please keep in mind, Financial Donations are still needed to pay the assembly and postage costs of $15 per care package.

Every tax deductible donation of $15 sends another care package, personally addressed to an American hero, and filled with 50+ assorted snack, entertainment and personal care items valued at $100 or more.

Please ensure that every Soldier, Sailor, Airman and Marine deployed in harm’s way, and every recuperating Wounded Warrior, feels loved and appreciated this holiday season. Please donate online today.

If you prefer to send donations by check, please make payable and mail to:

Operation Gratitude
16444 Refugio Road
Encino, California 91436

Thank you again for your tremendous support of our mission. We hope you will share the excitement of our 750,000th Care Package Celebration!

Location:
California Army National Guard
17330 Victory Boulevard
Van Nuys, CA 91406
Corner of Victory and Louise

Time:
Care Package Assembly: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Celebration and Lunch: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
We invite you to stay for lunch following the celebration and to continue assembling packages until 4 p.m.

More Links:
For additional volunteer information:
Volunteer
To learn how you can help:
Support Activities
Donate while you shop: Great Ideas
To Request Care Packages for Deployed Troops: Request Packages

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Cars for U.S. Troops: Donations Making a Difference!

You can help boost the morale of our military troops when you turn that unwanted car into a tax write-off by donating it to Cars for U.S. Troops! You will avoid the hassles of selling a car, skip paying hefty repair bills, free up space in your garage…and maybe best of all: Your charitable donations can make a big difference in the lives of deployed U.S. service members.

Cars for U.S. Troops will:

  • Pick up your vehicle at your home or workplace whether it is running or not.
  • Handle ALL the paperwork: Tax receipt, DMV and Smog Check.
  • Give you an IRS tax receipt for your records.

You receive a full IRS tax deduction for the value of the vehicle and Operation Gratitude receives proceeds from the sale! Cars for U.S. Troops  has developed the largest resale network in the vehicle donation industry, so it is a win-win for our supporters and our charity!

What kinds of vehicles are accepted?

  • Auto
  • Van
  • SUV
  • Truck
  • Boat
  • Jet Ski
  • Snowmobile
  • Trailer
  • Motorcycle
  • Motorhome
  • RV
  • Forklift
  • Tractor
  • Heavy Equipment

Want to know more? Call or email Cars for U.S. Troops — seven days a week! Check out the answers to Frequently Asked Questions. (We have a car donation flyer with info, too!)You can fill out a Donation Form online, or call 800-333-0606 to make arrangements for your quick and easy donation.

Thank you for your generous support!

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Every “Thank You” = More Care Packages for the Troops!

Looking for additional ways to say “Thank You” to veterans and deployed U.S. service members? If you use Facebook, you have another opportunity to do just that — and help support Operation Gratitude financially at the same time!

Climashield is a company that makes lightweight thermal insulation for a variety of different products that outdoor enthusiasts and our troops love to wear and use. Starting today through Thanksgiving, Climashield invites grateful Americans to “sign” a virtual “Thank You” card to U.S. military personnel and veterans via the Climashield Facebook page. For each comment, Climashield will donate $5 to Operation Gratitude — up to $10,000!

Please take a few moments to “like” the Climashield page on Facebook and leave a comment in support of our troops and veterans!

Visit Operation Gratitude’s Great Ideas page to learn about more promotions that help support our patriotic cause. Thank you!

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