- Category: Family Capers - Service Projects
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Most of the individuals who wear a military uniform do so with a strong sense of duty to their nation. These individuals make extreme sacrifices in their service to country. They get paid less, work longer, stay separated from their families for long periods, suffer injuries, and even give their lives.
It is a sad truth that, as a family, we do not take time to recognize the sacrifices of those serving in the military. Understanding the sacrifices military personnel make is critical to understanding how our nation has thrived for so many long years. It is also an excellent way to see service to others on a much higher scale than just volunteer projects.
Sending Care Packages to Military Personnel Abroad
The concept of this service project is very simple. A family fills a box with items needed by soldiers who are stationed around the world. They then send the box to them. It is similar to the service project about delivering goodwill to a senior care facility. However, it is more involved as it requires a little more planning and there can be costs related to shipping the package. A family can connect with a nonprofit organization to donate materials, money and time or a family branch out on their own handling the entire process. If you have a local organization, it is best to join forces to maximize resources. If a family plans to send a care package on their own, there are several ways to connect with soldiers in need. At the end of this article are several links to organizations that specialize in sending care packages to military personnel.
As an alternative or even addition to this service project, a family can adopt the family of a soldier. Often military individuals will be separated from their spouse and children for long periods of time. Obviously, this is difficult for everyone. But the family left behind is often overlooked. It would be fun to send toys and letters to the children. It would be extremely kind and generous to find out specific needs of a spouse and send those items.
We have done this as a family several times. Most recently we have hooked up with a local nonprofit organization called Operation Shoebox. This organization has several events throughout the year for gathering items, sorting items, and packing items. Some of these events have hundreds of people participating and at other times we may be the only ones there to help.
My personal favorite part of this volunteer activity is filling the actual box with items that will end up in the hands of a soldier. I like to take my youngest two children and ask them if they think a soldier far away from home will like a specific item and why. It creates a strong sense of empathy and makes the activity have deeper meaning. In my own mind, I like to imagine a specific person and what their face might be when they see a special item. We have even prayed for the person that will receive the specific box we pack.
Bonus Family Project. We LOVE this project! It is part of a White House initiative called "Operation Honor Card" which encourages individuals to pledge volunteer hours to honor those that serve in the military.
Variations of Care Packages
Basic Needs. These are the typical packages that most nonprofit organizations pack and deliver to soldiers. See the sample list below for ideas.
Holidays. The most obvious holiday to send a package is Christmas. But there are several others that have nifty themes for care packages. For example, sending boxes of candy to an entire unit on Halloween or Easter. Or making cards for Valentines day.
Specialized Needs. This is rare and should be carefully considered before taking on as a project. There are occasions when military personnel do not have the necessary equipment at their station. These are sometimes high-priced items and may even need some kind of approval. If any of these are identified specifically and the price is very high, consider getting corporate sponsors to help with the cost.
Gathering Items for Care Package
To be safe you should never include anything perishable. When sending any kind of food item, check that it can withstand dramatic temperature changes, either cold or hot. Also, be sure that nothing is too fragile. Even the best packing jobs can get damaged in transit. Also consider items that can be used by themselves or without the aid of other items, such as pop-top cans instead of cans that require a can opener.
Sample List of Care Package Items
Food & Treats
Batteries (all sizes)
Travel size games
Baby Wipes (indiv. packs)
Tips for Packing the Care Package
Place anything that may leak or may open into a zip-top bag. When putting toiletries in the same box as food items, be sure to protect the items from each other.
Personalized letters, cards and drawings from the kids are also great to send in the packages.
You can pre-address a postcard or envelope to your family with a note asking the service member to please let you know if they received the package.
Do not send stamps since they are not needed as the service member can typically mail things for free back to the states.
The U.S. Postal Service offers FREE boxes for Priority Mail. You can also order free boxes from the USPS online store (for use with Priority Mail shipping only). The Recommended size is the #4 or #7 box.
Some Local Organizations Sending Packages
Phoenix, Arizona: PackagesFromHome.org
Encino, California: Operation Gratitude
Sacramento, California: Sacramento Blue Star Moms
San Jose, California: Operation: Care and Comfort
Chicago, Illinois: Operation Stars and Stripes
Florida: Operation Shoebox
Helena, Montana: Montana Supporting Soldiers
Staten Island, New York: Project Homefront
Memphis, Tennessee: Operation Troop Aid
Connecticut, North Carolina, Washington, Oregon : Give 2 The Troops