Our New CEO


Operation Gratitude Announces Appointment of Retired Marine and Nonprofit Leader, Kevin Schmiegel, as New CEO.

Founder and CEO Carolyn Blashek to assume role as Senior Advisor to the organization

November 30, 2017, Chatsworth, CA – The Board of Directors of Operation Gratitude today announced the appointment of retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Schmiegel as the new Chief Executive Officer to lead the 14-year old organization into its future expansion.  Founder and current CEO, Carolyn Blashek, who initiated the search for her replacement earlier this year, will serve as Senior Advisor to the organization and as a Member ex-officio of the Board.

In his role as CEO, effective December 1, 2017, Mr. Schmiegel will oversee the day to day operations of the organization and work closely with the Board to develop and implement a strategic plan to increase opportunities for all Americans to express their appreciation to those who serve. Drawing on his experience building grassroots campaigns and public-private partnerships, Schmiegel will work to further Operation Gratitude’s reach as a preeminent military support organization while expanding hands-on volunteerism in communities across America.

During his 20-year Military career, Colonel Schmiegel re-designed the Human Resources Development Process to reflect the Marine Corps’ strategic vision for the 21st century, prepared 600 Marines for war in Iraq as a Battalion Operations and Executive Officer, served as the principal Aide to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, was the Head of Enlisted Personnel Assignments for the Marine Corps and served as the Military Assistant to the Special Envoy for Middle East Regional Security.  

Following his retirement from the Marine Corps, Mr. Schmiegel served as Vice President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, focusing on program integration, strategy and process development, and interfacing with the Department of Defense, other government agencies and the CEOs and senior executives of domestic and international corporations. Notably, in 2011, Schmiegel founded Hiring Our Heroes, a nationwide campaign to help veterans and military spouses find meaningful careers in the private sector. Under his leadership, Hiring Our Heroes hosted more than 570 hiring fairs in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia in just two years, resulting in employment for more than 120,000 veterans and military spouses in more than 1,200 companies.  Most recently, Mr. Schmiegel served as the President of ThanksUSA, a non-profit providing need-based educational and career opportunities for America’s military families.

Mr. Schmiegel noted Operation Gratitude’s breadth of Care Package programs and Volunteer Engagement activities, as well as the organization’s recognition by two presidential administrations, numerous awards from the military, civilian and government sectors, and top notch ratings on all the charity watchdog sites, as some of the reasons he was attracted to the CEO role.  He added: “The overarching appeal of this exciting position with Operation Gratitude, however, is the opportunity to continue to serve those who serve, as well as the tremendous potential to expand a grassroots movement nationwide and create new avenues for every American to express their gratitude to all who put themselves in harm’s way.”

Mrs. Blashek oversaw the growth of the grassroots organization from sending the first four Operation Gratitude Care Packages on March 19, 2003 to the upcoming celebration of the 2 Millionth Care Package on December 9th, 2017.  In announcing the transition plan to the staff of 13 plus the dedicated 350,000+ volunteers and donors, she stated: “For the past six weeks, Kevin and I have been working side by side, conveying important information to ensure a successful transition, and most importantly, sharing our mutual vision for the future of the organization.  I can assure every one of you–our incredibly devoted supporters–that Kevin is absolutely the right person at the right time for Operation Gratitude!”

In announcing the successful conclusion of the ten month-long executive search, Board of Directors Chair, Martha “Marty” Martin expressed the Board’s overwhelming enthusiasm for Mr. Schmiegel’s appointment as CEO, and deepest appreciation to Mrs. Blashek for her many years of leadership and hands-on efforts:  “Carolyn’s vision and inspiration for the past 14 years attracted countless supporters to join our movement and express their appreciation to all who serve.  Now, as the organization is well poised for new growth, Kevin’s exceptional experience and connections both in the Military and private sectors uniquely qualify him to lead Operation Gratitude into the future.  The Board and I look forward to working with Kevin as CEO and Carolyn as Senior Advisor to achieve our shared strategic and visionary goals.”


Operation Gratitude (www.operationgratitude.com) annually sends 250,000+ care packages to First Responders, New Recruits, Veterans, 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. The organization’s 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 the organization $15 to assemble and ship. Since its inception in 2003, Operation Gratitude volunteers have shipped more than 1.9 Million Care Packages.  The 2 Millionth Care Package will be celebrated on December 9, 2017.

Volunteer From Anywhere

Volunteer From Anywhere

Volunteers are the heartbeat of what we do at Operation Gratitude. We couldn’t accomplish our mission without the support of grateful Americans across the country.

Join us at an event as we open our doors to volunteering. The safety of our volunteers and recipients is our top priority.

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Volunteer with Your Company

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