The Every Day is a Day On series spotlights volunteers at Operation Gratitude who go above and beyond to support servicemen and women, their families, and first responders.
Our series begins with two sisters–Mary Ausloos of New Mexico and Mona Wolverton of Colorado–volunteers whose focus with Operation Gratitude has been the handmade card program and spreading holiday cheer through their cards.
Gathering their family together, the sisters formed two teams under the hashtags: #siblingrivalry, #TeamCO, and #TeamNM. Their goal was to make the most cards for a great cause. The challenge got highly competitive and resulted in hundreds of handmade cards to support and grow Operation Gratitude’s mission.
This is their OG story…
OG: We’re interested in getting to know you both a bit better. How did you get started with Operation Gratitude?
Mary: I received an email from Starbucks asking for volunteers to start a letter-writing campaign. I talked with my sister Margaret, from New Mexico about making postcards. I contacted Katrina at Operation Gratitude, asking if I could do postcards because I prefer that to writing. Katrina was happy about our interest and thanked us for wanting to participate.
We put “thank you” on one side of the card and words of encouragement on the other, and Margaret and I sent out more than 300 cards! This was also how I found the Facebook group, Operation Gratitude in Action. So, I reached out to my two sisters, my mom Jovanna from Colorado, and my sister-in-law Pat from Texas, to join me in making blank greeting cards for the troops.
Mona: Mary was very persuasive, and her enthusiasm for the project was incredibly contagious. So, it was hard to say no to her! Plus it was becoming a family affair, and I liked that aspect of it. It was something that we could all support together. I didn’t, unfortunately, even know about Operation Gratitude beforehand. This organization is so amazing with all the things they do!
OG: On a side note, do either of you have a connection to the military?
Mary: Yes, my husband was in the Army; his daughters were both Air Force, and our brother is retired Air Force.
Mona: My husband is retired Air Force as well.
OG: How does it feel to volunteer for Operation Gratitude knowing that you have such a personal connection? How does it impact you?
Mary: I think it is great to know that the troops can now send a note to their loved ones on a handmade card. I also like to think that the families enjoy receiving the cards.
OG: How has it been being in the Facebook group, Operation Gratitude in Action?
Mona: Absolutely amazing! The community that Kelly from Operation Gratitude has fostered in that Facebook group is just beyond measure. Everyone is so encouraging, and I find a lot of inspiration in the group.
Mary: Yes, it’s very inspiring and the volunteers are all so talented and have big hearts.
OG: In your opinion, what makes Operation Gratitude so special?
Mona: All of our efforts are going to help the troops, first responders, and frontline workers, and that’s awesome.
OG: Would either of you like to share some personal experiences that were rewarding during this time? Any special impacts?
Mary: Seeing the number of current card-makers is rewarding. There weren’t many when I started and only one card was being sent per box. Now our goal is to get more than one card in a box by the end of 2021.
Mona: We’ve recruited a lot of people to the team by sharing our enthusiasm. It’s incredibly valuable to give back and be mindful of the impact that these gifts have.
It’s very easy to be complacent in life. Being involved with Operation Gratitude and realizing the comforts and safety that my family and I enjoy have put things in perspective. It’s made me value the time I have with my family, because those in uniform have had to leave loved ones behind to keep us safe.
Mary: It’s rewarding when a volunteer shows interest and asks questions in the Facebook group about how to make cards. I really enjoy helping others to discover card making!
Mona: What really struck me was that it takes so little to make a positive impact. One of the questions you had was what would you tell people to get them involved? I’d say that you do not have to commit to making a certain number of items. Just one scarf or one card makes a positive impact in someone’s life. It takes so little to be kind.
OG: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Mona: It’s great to be part of the community, especially in a time when we are isolated from each other. The other thing, for me, is the commitment of our leadership. CEO Kevin Schmiegel of Operation Gratitude was in our Handmade with Love Zoom Meetup recently. While he was sharing personal stories about being deployed, he was also making paracord bracelets. What CEO do you know that gets “down in the trenches” and does what he is asking the volunteers to do? The relationships and community have been so rewarding!
OG: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us! We appreciate all you do!
This is post is written by Jake Kelly, a communications intern at Operation Gratitude. Jake is from the Chicago suburbs and is a sophomore at the University of Connecticut pursuing a Bachelor’s in Journalism & History with a minor in Political Science.
Read more in the Every Day is a Day On blog series.