Crossing the Finish Line

Last week America celebrated volunteerism. As a nation, we have a deep belief in and passion for service to our country, communities, and one another. Much of the critical support that nonprofits provide to those in need is made possible by volunteers. 

This is certainly true at Operation Gratitude. Without our volunteers, our organization would impact only a small fraction of the half-million men and women in uniform we touch each year. To put it simply, volunteers are the heart and soul of OG.

As I reflect on what we were able to accomplish from April 18-24 as a nonprofit during National Volunteer Week, I am humbled to be a part of this amazing organization that was built on the spirit of gratitude and service. 

It is truly remarkable to think about what our volunteers did last week, still in the midst of a global pandemic. 

The Director of our Handmade With Love Program, Kelly South, reported that nearly 28,000 paracord survival bracelets flowed into our warehouse from 1,862 volunteers across the country who participated in the 2021 Vietnam Veteran Paracord Challenge. This is more than twice as many bracelets and three times the number of volunteers who participated in the very same challenge in 2020. 

In just 19 days in April, volunteers helped Operation Gratitude and CSX team members prepare and deliver 1,160 Battalion Buddies into the waiting arms of military children in 13 states, with thousands more on the way to a dozen more states as I write this.

We also continued to make a difference for thousands of deployed troops around the world, as well as military families and National Guardsmen here at home. Here are just a few pictures of the impact we made on the men and women in uniform serving our great nation.

Operation Gratitude CEO talks to National Guard members and thanks them for their service.
Military kids cuddle their Operation Gratitude Battalion Buddies.

When all is said and done, during April — which happens to be both the Month of the Military Child and National Volunteer Month — we will do more than any other organization in the country when it comes to impacting the lives of military kids, as well as volunteers of all ages and from every walk of life.

But we need your help crossing the finish line. As April closes out in just a few days, we are asking you to do two things:

  1. Write a handwritten letter of appreciation to a deployed service member, National Guardsmen deployed domestically, or a military family that is also serving and sacrificing for our nation
  2. Donate a care package to a deployed service member or a Battalion Buddy to a military kid left behind 

My pledge to you is simple. We will take the dollars and beautiful handmade cards and letters you contribute and directly impact 70,000 more service members and their families during Military Appreciation Month in May and Christmas in July!

These efforts will start next week in Georgia and North Carolina where our team and I will join volunteers to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of military families we touch with in-person deliveries. 

For all of you who donate your time, talent, and treasure to help us accomplish our mission, I promise to share plenty of photos with you personally during my travels over the next ten days. 

See y’all from the highways and the byways of the southeastern United States!

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Channeling the Holiday Spirit this Summer

Amidst the heat of the summer, an image of logs crackling in the fireplace and casting a glow on stockings hung above is probably the last thing to come to mind for most people. But for Operation Gratitude and our growing army of volunteers nationwide, the holiday spirit is always in our thoughts.

More Than Just a Hug

When I look back at my journey over the past 3 years and 8 months as the CEO of Operation Gratitude, the one thing that sticks out the most are the hugs.

They are etched in my memory forever — literally thousands of hugs at hundreds of service projects and community-building events — on too many trips, and in too many cities to count, from sea to shining sea.