Since 2003, Operation Gratitude has mobilized more than 525,000 volunteers nationwide to deliver more than 2.1 million Care Packages, including 1.6 million sent to Deployed Troops in more than 100 countries and to Sailors aboard U.S. Naval Vessels on all seven seas. More than 500,000 Care Packages have also been provided to Veterans, First Responders, Recruit Graduates, and Military Families in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Since 2011, Operation Gratitude has sent Care Packages to the Wounded Hero and Caregiver community. Now we are excited to tell you about our renewed and expanded commitment to this community!
On a Friday afternoon in August, we received a message from Billie, a Veteran Caregiver from Alabama. Billie was upset after learning that Operation Gratitude only fulfilled requests for Caregiver Care Packages through certified programs like the VA. She was concerned that our program was not as inclusive of Caregivers as it could be.
Our CEO Kevin Schmiegel called Billie the next day, ready to hear her ideas about how Operation Gratitude could expand support of the Wounded Hero and Caregiver communities.
Billie shared that her husband Mike served in the Marine Corps for 21 years and retired honorably. She recounted that it felt as as though their life was going well for their family of six until it wasn’t. After they moved to Alabama, the Department of Veterans Affairs reclassified Mike with a permanent and total disability rating (“P&T”) of 100% .
According to the VA, if a veteran is classified as permanently disabled at 100%, they can no longer receive a salary or wages for work. If a veteran with a 100% P&T rating does start working for pay, their VA benefits are at risk of being discontinued.
For Billie, this change meant that her husband could no longer work and her life became immensely more difficult as she took on the responsibility of being his full-time Caregiver.
As time went on, Billie reached out to several non-profit organizations that provide support and service to Caregivers. Unfortunately, she was turned away time and time again because she had not been accepted into the very selective VA Caregiver Program, which many organizations use as a benchmark for determining eligibility.
Being a Caregiver is not a one-size-fits-all job and Caregivers like Billie are often left out, left behind, and forgotten.
a renewed commitment
As Kevin listened to Billie’s story and heard the frustration in her voice, he immediately promised that Operation Gratitude would commit to creating a new system to honor individual Care Package requests. Kevin knew that Operation Gratitude had the power to help Caregivers like Billie be seen and never feel forgotten again.
We are incredibly proud of Billie and her courage to speak up not only for her Wounded Hero, but also for herself and for all Caregivers in this community.
To fulfill his commitment and promise to Billie, Kevin hired Betsy Eves, a dedicated and passionate Caregiver to lead Operation Gratitude’s efforts.
Betsy, an Army Spouse and Caregiver herself, began working with Operation Gratitude in September to energize the Wounded Hero and Caregiver Program. Her first priority was to update the verification process for Caregivers to include a wider range of Caregiver situations. She then sought national partnerships to expand the scope and reach of the Wounded Hero and Caregiver program.
As a Caregiver with a background in non-profit community building, Betsy is uniquely positioned to provide the guidance and enthusiasm needed to highlight and grow the Wounded Hero and Caregiver program!
Check out our new Wounded Hero and Caregiver Program page!
New and Improved care package
Together with our partners, we have created a new customized Operation Gratitude Care Package to send to Wounded Heroes and Caregivers as a way of saying THANK YOU for their service to our nation.
Betsy and the Operation Gratitude team put a lot of thought and effort into curating the contents of the Wounded Hero and Caregiver Care Package. Each box is filled with wish list items from individual donors and corporate sponsors like Mars, Ferrero, CVS Health, and Target.
Also included are scarves, hats and paracord bracelets handmade by grateful Americans, and heartfelt notes of appreciation written by volunteers across the country.
The hope is that these Care Packages will make the daily lives of the Wounded Heroes and Caregivers just a bit easier as they tackle daily appointments and challenges, and also send the important message of support and appreciation from the American people.
In her first weeks at Operation Gratitude, Betsy established a national partnership with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation (EDF). EDF is the preeminent organization empowering, supporting, and honoring our nation’s military Caregivers who care for America’s wounded, ill, or injured veterans.
Founded by Senator Elizabeth Dole in 2012, the Foundation adopts a comprehensive approach in its advocacy, working with leaders in the public, private, nonprofit and faith communities to recognize military Caregivers’ service and promote their well-being.
This partnership with EDF will allow Operation Gratitude to send 1000 Wounded Hero and Caregiver Care Packages by the end of 2018!
Just before Thanksgiving, the first round of new and improved Care Packages left our warehouse in Chatsworth, CA and was delivered to wounded heroes and Caregivers from Alaska to Puerto Rico and everywhere in between!
Operation Gratitude has also established partnerships with The USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore, REBOOT Alliance, Dog Tag Inc., and Brain Performance Institute at the Center for BrainHealth, University of Texas-Dallas. These partnerships will ensure we reach more and more Wounded Heroes and Caregivers in order to say THANK YOU for their SERVICE to our great nation.
We’ve already begun to see the impact that our Care Packages are making on the Wounded Hero and Caregiver community! Here are a few of the “thank you” letters we have received back from package recipients:
“While our Army Sergeant son wasn’t able to open his gift himself, as he is minimally conscious, he did look at all the goodies that were sent. As his parents and caregivers, we truly appreciate the gifts from the bottom of our hearts.” -Greg A.
“Dear Operation Gratitude,
Thank you so much for the wonderful caregivers package you sent to us. It has been a challenging year and a half since my husband’s injury. Thank you for caring, thank you for thinking of our military and first responders, thank you for thinking about military and first responder families, thank you for your prayers. Thank you for what you do. With generous hearts like yours, it makes the road to recovery a little easier.” -Mary, Ryan, and Isabelle
“Thank you so much for the amazing package for my husband and I. We had fun going through the box and I especially loved the pink scarf!! This made our day so much brighter knowing that so many around the country care enough to contribute cards, gifts, love, and time to put these boxes together. ❤️❤️” -Emily
On November 26, 2018 Kevin and Betsy were invited to announce the expansion of this program at the 3rd Annual National Convening co-hosted by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Operation Gratitude commits to deliver 10,000
Wounded Hero and Caregiver Care Packages in 2019!
To accomplish this goal, Operation Gratitude will:
- Lead a grassroots movement to forge a bond between those who serve and the citizens they protect, focusing on hands-on volunteerism, expressions of gratitude, and meaningful engagements in communities across America.
- Mobilize our volunteers and corporate partners across the United States to join together in their local communities to hand make scarves, hats and paracord bracelets, purchase wish-list items, as well as build and personally deliver Care Packages.
how you can help
From individuals to organized groups, from non-profits to major corporations, Operation Gratitude has a way for you to help support our Wounded Hero and Caregiver Program!
Individuals and Groups:
- Host a Collection Drive
- Write Letters
- Make Paracord Bracelets
- Knit or Crochet Scarves or Hats
- Donate Beanie Babies
- Donate Wish-List Items
- Attend an Assembly Day
- Screen Letters
For more information, visit our Express Your Thanks page.
Corporations and Businesses:
- Employee Engagement at Your Location
- Employee Engagement at our Warehouse in Chatsworth, CA
- Letter Writing Campaign
- Community Care Kit Event
- Product Donation
- Financial Donation
- Cause Marketing Campaign
For more information, visit our Corporate Partnerships page.
Non-Profit and Veteran Service Organizations:
- Become a National Partner (view the .pdf to learn more)
- Mobilize your community to give back by participating in any of the other options listed above
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.