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Send Care Package to Soldiers

soldier care packageMost 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

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.

care package1 400As 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.

Some Background

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.

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

Beef Jerky
Canned Fruit
Canned Meat
Cereal (in small boxes)
Granola Bars
Cookies
Instant Soups
Ramen Noodles
Cup of Soup
Instant Oatmeal
Pop-Tarts
Ravioli (pop top cans)
Tuna, Chicken (single serving cans w/crackers)
Gum
Candy
Chocolate (except in hot months)

Drink Items

Coffee (instant)
Coffee Creamer - single serving packets
Hot Chocolate
Gatorade
Powdered Drink Mixes
Tea Mixes

Utility Items 

Batteries (all sizes)
Bug Spray
Duct Tape
Disposable Cameras
Flashlights (mini)
Fans (small – with extra batteries)
Fly Strips
Pre-Paid Phone Cards
Shoe Insole Cushions
Socks (cushioned/cotton)
Sunglasses (black – no brand names)

Entertainment Items

Travel size games
Board Games, Checkers, Chess
Puzzles Books such as Crossword, Word Search or Sudoku
Playing Cards
Card games like Uno
CDs/DVDs
Harmonicas
Envelopes, stationary or post cards 

Personal Hygiene

Baby Wipes (indiv. packs)
Nose spray
Cold Water Wash
Eye Drops
Deodorant
Feminine Hygiene Products
Foot Powder
Hairbrushes
Hand Lotion
Hand Sanitizers (indiv. size)
Nail Clippers
Lip Balm
Q-Tips
Razors (disposable)
Soap
Sunscreen
Tissues (indiv. packs)
Toilet Paper (including travel size)
Tylenol (individual packets)
Wash Cloths
Floss
Mouthwash (small containers)
Toothbrushes
Toothpaste

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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.

Helpful Links

US Government website listing several organizations that send Care Packages

Volunteer Opportunities to Help Military and Their Families

White House Initiative: Joining Forces for Good

Helping Families Left Behind

Adopt a Platoon

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

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Timeless Wisdom

If America is the pursuit of happiness, the best way to pursue happiness is to help other people.

 

- George Lucas