Call to Action: Join Our Movement to Thank Every First Responder

This has been a heartbreaking week here in California. Twelve people were shot and killed at Borderline, a beloved Thousand Oaks nightspot that regularly hosts a “college night” for country music line dancing. Back in the day, as a senior in high school and later as a Pepperdine student, many of my friends and fellow students would attend these college nights.

The same week, devastating wildfires broke out and, as I write this blog post, have since burned nearly 250,000 acres, destroyed thousands of homes and structures, and taken more than 50 lives. Hundreds of thousands of people have been affected by these events, including some of our Operation Gratitude family. Even as the fierce winds subside, there is still much work to be done to contain the fires, recover missing persons, clear away debris, clean, and then rebuild.

As the wife of a first responder, I am acutely aware of the burden placed on our police and firefighters, especially in times like these. They face long, exhausting, and even life-threatening shifts, constant exposure to smoke and ash-filled air, and the daunting task of going door to door to make sure people will evacuate. They tirelessly protect neighborhoods from looters, search through destroyed property for victims who did not make it out in time, and share devastating news with families who have lost a loved one. Their courage, selfless spirit, and sacrifices are humbling and inspiring.

After the shooting in Jacksonville, Florida, Operation Gratitude’s CEO Kevin Schmiegel, along with local volunteers gathered 3,000 Care Pouches assembled by our team in California and delivered them in person on 9/11 to Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and surrounding Police and Fire Departments. We felt it was important to show our gratitude for their service and response at such a critical time. After the recent horrific shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, then here in Thousand Oaks, and now as the fires in California continue to burn, we have heard from many of you, asking the same question we’re asking ourselves: “What can I do to help?”

While firefighters from across California and several other states, along with National Guardsmen, are still actively fighting fires, we have a wonderful opportunity for all of us to thank fire and police personnel across the nation in a tangible and heartfelt way.

We have been told time and again that the most cherished items we include in our care packages are handwritten letters. Letters give each of us a chance to connect personally with the recipient and express our care and gratitude for the work they do every day. Together, we can show our first responders that the nation is united in our support for them.

We ask that you join our movement and take time today to write a letter of thanks, encouragement, and support to a First Responder and send it to us at Operation Gratitude. We will be delivering bundles of your handwritten notes to firefighters and police officers here in California and throughout the nation.

The brave men and women who put their lives on the line every day need to know that they have our support and gratitude. Will you join us in thanking them?

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Channeling the Holiday Spirit this Summer

Amidst the heat of the summer, an image of logs crackling in the fireplace and casting a glow on stockings hung above is probably the last thing to come to mind for most people. But for Operation Gratitude and our growing army of volunteers nationwide, the holiday spirit is always in our thoughts.

More Than Just a Hug

When I look back at my journey over the past 3 years and 8 months as the CEO of Operation Gratitude, the one thing that sticks out the most are the hugs.

They are etched in my memory forever — literally thousands of hugs at hundreds of service projects and community-building events — on too many trips, and in too many cities to count, from sea to shining sea.