Supporting Local Military Families with Care Packages

Abstract: 

Dr. Jill Biden, wife of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, teamed up with White House interns and the USO of Metropolitan Washington to put together care packages for the local families of wounded soldiers (Simmons & Solomon, 2010). She talked to the interns about the importance of service, stating, "It's the small acts of kindness that make a difference to the military and their families. I hope when you go back to your colleges and communities you continue this kind of service." The following practice offers many useful ideas for organizing a local care package awareness drive aimed at supporting military families.

Issue:

Supporting our troops is a multidimensional process; one aspect that can sometimes be overlooked is giving support to military families who are making do while the service member is deployed or wounded. Care packages serve as friendly reminders to our service men and women that citizens recognize the sacrifices made by the entire military family.

Action:

Make a difference to military families through a care package project — here are some ideas to help:

Assess the community; canvass: Identify military families in your neighborhood by taking a walk and knocking on doors to inquire. Learn their stories. Tell them you want to have a care-package awareness drive to support them and their service member. Make sure to involve nonprofits, businesses, community groups, and faith-based agencies in helping to identify military families and to get the word out about the project.

Set dates: Allow enough time to prepare and market the project. Find dates and times that work for the people who will be helping; check the local forecast and plan during fair weather to ensure the best participation. Gather with your neighbors to brainstorm ideas, make flyers, organize a planning timeline, and delegate responsibilities. Two to three weeks is usually sufficient for passing out flyers. Contact local news to invite press coverage.

Set goals: Decide how many non-perishable items you would like to collect. Consider how many donors are needed and how much you can expect to collect. Contact your local Red Cross chapter, and tell them about your project and your intentions. They can usually be counted on to assist with additional helpful hints and resources.

Care package items to consider:

  • Food not in glass containers: Canned meat or tuna, canned vegetables or fruit, baby food, soups, rice, pasta, pasta sauce, hot cereals, cold cereals, juice, peanut butter, jelly, beans, pet care products.
  • Personal care: Toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, bar soap, deodorant, diapers and wipes, laundry items, shaving items, feminine care items, toilet paper.
  • Gift cards: Local grocery stores, phone cards, car wash tokens.
  • Home-made redeemable coupons: Babysitting, yard care, car cleaning or maintenance, door and/or tree trimming during holidays.

Select drop-off locations and conduct the drive: Drop-off locations should be highly visible. Medium sized boxes (e.g., recycled copy paper boxes) work well and can be easily lifted. Children could decorate the boxes before and after school. Check the boxes often. Include a thank-you poster at each drop-off location and tell people how they can continue to contribute once the drive is over.

Advertise and ask: Drum up support, walk your community, knock on doors, and ask your neighbors to serve as volunteers; bring flyers to leave that detail the time, date, contact person, and donation locations (for good and/or supplies). Ask other agencies to participate or to host the celebration. Hand out flyers with the kinds of food items needed. Use e-mail blasts, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, make posters, ask for inclusion in community newsletters, post on websites, and include public service announcements in local and community newspapers and television, if possible.

Drive, drive, drive: On the day of the drive have an attention-getter; make some noise so people will be curious! Have a local band or a group play or sing for free. Remember to invite the local news.

Deliver the items: Keep the energy and spirit of your drive going by asking different groups to sponsor and/or deliver the items to military families on a consistent basis.

Reflect: Spend time with the military families to understand their challenges.

Celebrate: Announce your success and thank all participants. Ask the media to cover each group as they deliver the military family care packages.

For more information:

Related Resources

Support Our Troops

USO Centers, United States

National Guard Family Program

Citations: 

Julia Simmons & Sophia Solomon. (2010, July 23). "Operation care package" [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/07/23/operation-care-package

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