What do you get when you combine 645 volunteers, thousands of handwritten Thank You letters and more than a quarter of a million donated items? This past Saturday in Chatsworth, California with Operation Gratitude, it’s a combination that resulted in 12,000 Care Packages for Deployed Troops, First Responders and new Recruit Graduates, and a whole lot of smiles – tens of thousands of smiles on the faces of our volunteers locally and across the country and the recipients of our Care Packages around the globe!
As someone who started as a volunteer with Operation Gratitude three years ago, I’ve always been overwhelmed by the generosity and positive energy that our volunteers bring to Operation Gratitude’s Forward Operating Base during monthly Assembly Days. The excitement, love, and passion to give back to our nation’s Heroes fills the room. This past weekend, in my new role as the Senior Director of Volunteer and Community Engagement, I saw the impact of Operation Gratitude Care Packages in a completely different light. I also realized how special it is to be part of a mission that not only makes an impact on our Military and First Responder communities, but on every volunteer and supporter, both locally and nationally, who contribute to fill and send these boxes.
Impact can be measured in numbers.
This week we shipped 5,880 Care Packages to U.S. Service Members serving far away from home in time for delivery during the week of Independence Day – a fitting tribute to the men and women who protect our freedom at home and abroad every day.
At the Assembly Day this weekend, we also announced the results of our fourth year partnering with Jersey Mike’s and its nationwide Month of Giving campaign. Across Southern California, 170 locations came together to support Operation Gratitude, raising $831,504! This amazing donation will help cover the shipping costs for more than 55,400 Operation Gratitude Care Packages. Since 2015, Jersey Mike’s has raised over $2.5 million for our cause, and thousands of their employees rolled up their sleeves with us to reach this incredible milestone.
Our corporate partners, including Mars, 5-Hour Energy, Pilot Pens, Gorilla Glue, O’Keeffe’s, Haribo, Purell and Power Crunch, contributed more than 150,000 items in bulk to fill the 12,000 Care Packages. But the impact is not just the number — all of these donations are vital to our Care Package programs, because they are reminders of home. We also saw large volunteer groups from Booz Allen Hamilton, UPS, Disney, Target, Bank of America, the Cheesecake Factory and King’s Hawaiian, to name just a few.
June 23, 2018: Operation Gratitude Assembly Day By the Numbers:
- 645 volunteers
- 12,000 Care Packages filled with more than 250,000 individual items
- 1,017 Paracord Bracelets handmade by more than 100 volunteers
- 245 Battalion Buddies stuffed with love and care for children of deployed Troops
- 2,000 Letters written
- 7,000 Letters screened
Impact can be measured in how we make a difference in the lives of those who serve.
Lou Turriaga, a Director of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, joined us to talk about what it will mean to the 10,000 police officers in LAPD who will receive First Responder Care Pouches from Operation Gratitude this year. He shared that so many local law enforcement officials do not expect this expression of appreciation for their service from the American public, and now more than ever it is important for that connection to be made.
Another special moment this weekend that demonstrated the full impact of Operation Gratitude’s mission was the opportunity to meet Katie, a Navy spouse who celebrated her 31st birthday by volunteering with her family and friends at our Assembly Day. Katie packed the final Care Package of the day, which we shipped to her husband currently serving overseas with the U.S. Navy. It was a very touching moment for all of the volunteers in attendance, as we watched Katie address the final Care Package to her husband and add it to the stacks of boxes to be shipped overseas. Katie also took home two Operation Gratitude Battalion Buddies for her children who have been separated from their dad for several months.
Meeting Katie and her family and friends was a beautiful reminder of the impact Operation Gratitude has not only on our deployed Service Members but also on the loved ones they leave behind and who selflessly sacrifice for our nation every day.
Impact can also be measured in the expression of gratitude from our volunteers, supporters, and partners both locally and across the country.
This was the 17th Assembly Day I’ve participated in since 2015, and there is something magical about working alongside hundreds of volunteers from across Southern California to assemble our Care Packages. It’s just as magical to be part of a grassroots movement and see all the love and gratitude that comes from our volunteers who donate “Wish List” items and Handmade With Love gifts (more than 100,000 were placed in Care Packages this weekend alone) from across the country.
It is that expression of gratitude that truly showcases Operation Gratitude’s impact, not only on the recipients of our Care Packages but on Americans everywhere who passionately want to serve those who serve. Every Wish List item donated, every collection drive, every scarf knitted, every handmade paracord bracelet, and every handwritten letter sent to Operation Gratitude makes a difference. Nothing Operation Gratitude has accomplished as an organization could have been achieved without our army of volunteers across the country. I am so grateful to be a part of Operation Gratitude’s volunteer efforts nationwide and to see the impact we are having together every day.
Senior Director of Volunteer & Community Engagement