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Every Day is a Day On: Bridging the Divide through Philanthropy

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.

The third feature in this series features Holly Street of Atlanta, Georgia. Holly has been volunteering with Operation Gratitude through the National Charity League (NCL) for eight years. The Buckhead Chapter of NCL’s main focus of volunteerism has been making paracord bracelets, writing letters, and collecting care package donations.

This is Holly’s story…

OG: We appreciate you sharing your story ! To begin, how did you become involved with Operation Gratitude?

Holly: I serve Operation Gratitude through a volunteer organization that my daughters and I have been part of for eight years, the National Charity League (NCL). NCL is a philanthropic organization of mothers and daughters who volunteer millions of hours for over 6,000 charities every year.

We are part of the Buckhead Chapter of NCL in the Greater Atlanta Metropolitan Area, which is composed of over 350 mother and daughter members. In 2014, the chapter philanthropy chair asked my daughter and me if we could help her bring military philanthropy to the group of organizations that our chapter serves.

After much research and evaluation, we selected Operation Gratitude as our military philanthropy partner. Since then, our chapter has served Operation Gratitude with over 6,000 volunteer hours and has made over 15,000 paracord bracelets, written thousands of letters, and collected countless care package donations

Volunteers making paracord bracelets.

OG: Do you have any personal connections to the military? 

Holly: I have many personal connections. My grandfather and father were in the Army. My grandfather served as a pilot in World War II, and my father was a Green Beret in the Vietnam War. My brother is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army and is currently based in Washington, DC.

OG: Is there a specific element of volunteering that the National Charity League focuses on? 

Holly: The NCL Buckhead Chapter’s focus has been on paracord bracelets and letter writing. This year, we are adding a new activity this year, a pillowcase project.

For the paracord bracelets, we source all of the materials, make the kits, and weave the bracelets. Our Operation Gratitude volunteer work is very flexible. Many members serve from home, but we also feature Operation Gratitude activities during several group meetings every year. We have found that making paracord bracelets is a wonderful way for the group to serve the military and also form great relationships with each other.

Smiling sheriff showing his paracord bracelet.

For every paracord bracelet our members make, they also write a note to the service member who receives the bracelet. This allows us to keep the military hero at the forefront of our minds as we serve. The note always has a focus on gratitude for the tremendous contributions that our military makes to our country.

Handwritten letters of appreciation on display.

During the pandemic, while the ability to serve our philanthropies in person has been limited, Operation Gratitude has provided many in-home opportunities for service.

Our chapter of NCL has been able to dedicate more time than ever to serve with Operation Gratitude. Our new class of NCL 7th graders participated in an Operation Gratitude project to write letters for first responders as one of their first group volunteer activities. This was a wonderful way to begin their journey of service.

OG: Based on your experiences, what makes Operation Gratitude special? 

Holly: We serve Operation Gratitude from afar, yet we feel so connected to Operation Gratitude’s mission. We see the impact being made on so many lives.

Even though we are not in California, Operation Gratitude keeps us up to date on current initiatives and outreach efforts. The organization is constantly expanding the scope of service to our military and first responders. This gives so many volunteers across the country additional ways to serve and make an impact.

Operation Gratitude has a focus on both the people they are serving, as well as the volunteers who are so committed to serving. It is a wonderful combination. We feel fortunate to be able to contribute to this incredible organization. As volunteers, we feel valued and feel that our contributions are highly valued.

OG: Could you share with me a memorable experience or moment from your time with Operation Gratitude? 

Holly: One of my favorite memories of service through Operation Gratitude was when a group of 30 NCL Buckhead mothers and daughters (including my daughter and me) got together for a weekend retreat. We focused on Operation Gratitude service, including preparing over 10,000 feet of paracord, assembling kits, weaving paracord bracelets, and writing letters. 

US Army soldier happily holding an Operation Gratitude Care Package and the handwritten letters he received.

OG: Has volunteering at Operation Gratitude left a lasting impact or changed you in any way? 

Holly: NCL Buckhead’s service to Operation Gratitude has been so meaningful through the years. On a personal level, given my family’s involvement with the military, it is wonderful that my daughters and I can serve the military with our time and contributions.

Volunteering for Operation Gratitude has given my daughters and me, and countless other mothers and daughters at NCL, the gift of seeing that we can all make an impact.

My work serving Operation Gratitude has strengthened my relationship with my daughters and the other mother and daughter volunteers at NCL Buckhead.

Most importantly, though, volunteering with Operation Gratitude has given all of us a special connection with the brave and heroic military members and first responders who are making such a difference in the world. It is an honor to serve in this way. 

Healthcare staff proudly displaying handwritten letters from grateful Americans.

OG: What would you say to prospective volunteers or those who aren’t involved yet? 

Holly: Volunteering for Operation Gratitude has been so impactful for us and for the lives of others. It has been a wonderful part of our volunteer journey. There are so many ways to serve Operation Gratitude, both large and small.

My advice would be to explore the volunteer opportunities on the Operation Gratitude website, find one that resonates, and start your own journey of service. My own personal goal is to serve in-person at Operation Gratitude headquarters in California one day!

OG: Thank you for sharing your story. We appreciate your service to the organization and to our military, first responders, and their families.

We hope to see you at the FOB one day, too!

This post was 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.

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