Media Contact Information:
Carolyn Blashek, Founder & CEO
Operation Gratitude is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, volunteer-based organization that sends care packages & letters of support to individual Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen & Marines deployed in harm’s way, to their children left behind, and to First Responders, Veterans, New Recruits, Military Families, Wounded Heroes and their caregivers.
Operation Gratitude’s mission is twofold: to lift morale in the Military and First Responder communities; and to provide every American an opportunity to say “Thank You” to all who serve.
What We Do:
Since its inception in 2003, Operation Gratitude’s 50,000+ volunteers send, on average, more than 200,000 care packages every year.
This massive volunteer effort reflects: 2.75 million hours of volunteer service, 5 million hand-written letters, 9 million pounds of packages, $11 million in postage and shipping expenses, 60 million donated items, and packages traveling a grand total of 78.3 billion miles.
The organization sends a care package to every currently deployed Service Member whose name is received; to New Recruits upon their graduation from Boot Camp; to First Responders on the frontlines here at home; and to Veterans of earlier eras under the banner: “It is never too late to say ‘Thank You.’” Special ‘Battalion Buddy’ stuffed animals are sent to the children of deployed troops.
Operation Gratitude embraces supporters in every state. Scout troops, religious congregations, senior citizen centers, homeowner associations, places of business, civic groups, and schools from nursery through graduate programs, are some of the communities that join the mission.
Nationwide Volunteer Activities Include:
- Organizing Collections of: Wish List Items, “Cents for Service,” Halloween Candy and Smart Phones for Recycling
- Hosting Fundraisers and Letter Writing Campaigns
- Collecting Beanie Babies, Webkinz, Trolls and other stuffed animals
- Assembling “Care Kits” of 5-10 items to include in the larger Care Packages
- Weaving Paracord “Survival” Bracelets & Knitting/Crocheting Scarves
- Writing Letters
Each care package contains dozens of donated snack, entertainment and personal care items valued up to $100… but the morale lift they offer is priceless. More than 400 major corporations have donated products as “Corporate Sponsors” (donations of at least 10,000 items) or as “Friends of Operation Gratitude” (donations of 1,000 items or more). Donated funds are used to pay the assembly and shipping costs of $15/package.
After 9-11, founder Carolyn Blashek started volunteering at the military lounge at Los Angeles airport. In March 2003, a soldier came into the office and broke down at her desk. He was on leave from a war zone for his mother’s funeral, his wife had left him and his only child had died as an infant–he had no one else in his life. “I’m going back over there; I know I won’t make it back this time, but it really doesn’t matter because no one would even care” he told her. Right then Blashek realized that when bullets are flying, troops must believe that someone at home cares about them as an individual. That’s when Operation Gratitude was born.
While this grassroots movement started at Blashek’s dining room table, it now encompasses Americans all over the country donating items and writing letters to those who serve.
The One-Millionth Care Package was celebrated on December 7, 2013 and delivered in person to a sailor on a U.S. Navy ship deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The 1.5 Millionth Care Package was celebrated two-and-a-half years later on April 16, 2016.
- 95 cents of every dollar donated goes to program services; fundraising expenses less than 2%
- 1.6 Million+ care packages assembled and shipped
- 50,000+ volunteers and donors per year
- 335,997+ opted-in contacts in: Email, Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, Linked In, Insta, Pinterest, Blog
- Average Annual website hits: 24,600,000; Average Annual website visits: 593,828
- One of the top viewed charities on Guidestar.org
- Four-Star rating on Charity Navigator and Platinum level rating on Guidestar
Wish List Items:
- DVDs, CDs, iPods, Head-Sets, Batteries (all sizes)
- 6 inch Stuffed Animals (Beanie Babies, Webkinz), Small Toys, Novelties, Promotional items
- Hand-made Paracord Bracelets, Scarves, Hats, Neck Warmers
- Personal Care: Sunscreen, Foot Products, Lip Balm, Body Lotion, Toothpaste, Razors, Deodorant
- Handheld Electronic Games; Travel-size games; Crossword Puzzle/Sudoko Books
- Socks, Bandana Cool-Ties
- Gift Cards to chain stores such as supermarkets, drug stores, Target and Walmart
- Unused Greeting Cards for any occasions
- Unsealed Personal Letters and Cards of appreciation
- Used Cell and Smart Phones
Given the state of world affairs, at least 150,000 U.S. Troops will always be stationed far from home for long periods of time; thousands are currently deployed in dangerous combat zones. At the same time, 40,000 Wounded Heroes, 23 million Veterans, 150,000 New Recruits every year, 2.3 Million First Responders and all of their families wonder whether they have been forgotten. Operation Gratitude’s goal remains the same: Lift the spirits and meet the evolving needs of all who serve our nation, and provide opportunities for Americans everywhere to express their appreciation through hands-on, active Volunteerism.
General Ray Odierno, Commanding, upon receiving his own care package from Operation Gratitude:
“I would like to thank you not only for the package I received from OPERATION GRATITUDE, but also for all you do for each one of the dedicated men and women who serve our great Nation. I am truly humbled by the support you, your volunteers, and your generous sponsors have shown those who sacrifice so much for our country. Though our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines may protect our freedom, it’s people like all of you that give them the extra motivation to do the incredible job they do every day. Thank you once again, and God bless you all.”
Lt.General Mark Hertling, Commander, Multi-National Division-North, Iraq:
“What kind of difference has it made? Our Commanders made it a point to visit every single battalion and brigade during the three days surrounding Christmas. In every location, I saw numerous Operation Gratitude packages. Every soldier received a personalized note, some holiday cheer, and some treats. And you know what? It wasn’t the gifts or the cards or the notes that made such an impression…it was the realization that someone cared about our soldiers as individuals, understood the importance of their mission and appreciated their sacrifice.”
An Air Force Lt. Colonel on why these packages are different:
“I received an unexpected care package from you today and it is a little embarrassing how touched I was by your generosity. I have been sitting here trying to understand why this care package was so different from the others. I think it’s because you don’t know me. We expect to get things from friends and family, but you sent me something out of a deep respect for your country and its defenders. That’s powerful. I wanted you to know that your thoughtfulness made today better for all of us.
An Army First Sergeant, who wrote to tell us that Operation Gratitude had saved the life of his Soldier:
“Your care packages helped lift morale here greatly and helped save the life of a young soldier. We had a soldier who never got mail, care packages, or anything. He had little family and as it turns out was planning to commit suicide on Christmas, but because that soldier received your care package on Christmas Eve, it was like a Christmas gift. It made the soldier change his mind. The soldier now writes letters and emails to the folks whose names were in the box and his attitude and outlook on life have really improved. This is not a story-it is true. We found out when the soldier finally opened up and talked to the Chain of Command about what was going thru his mind. Your care package made a major difference in a human life. Because of your organization, one less family received terrible news at Christmas time.
A Private First Class on why the packages make such a difference:
“I cannot express to you how great it feels to come home after a long day of running missions to find a care package full of love sitting on your bunk. You are exhausted from wearing 50 plus pounds of armor for hours on end, then you open the package, see all that love, and are rejuvenated and ready to face the world again. It may sound small but it really does help enormously. Our location doesn’t have a real PX so we rely on the support of people at Operation Gratitude for the items we need–not to mention the morale boosting items such as cookies or candy. You all are the true heroes. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Thousands of additional troop letters can be found in the “Mail Call” section of the website.
Social Media & Internet Sites:
Troops receive their Operation Gratitude Care Packages in Afghanistan, 2015
Lt. Colonel received care packages in Afghanistan, 2015
Army Soldier smiles and thanks us for a box of Halloween Candy
An entire unit celebrated receiving their Operation Gratitude Care Packages