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Seasonal Drives Give Troops Taste of Home for the Holidays

Posted Dec 01 2011 11:21am
With the holiday season approaching, shoppers will soon flood the malls, kids will mail Santa their wish lists, and cheerful faces will start ringing bells, asking for your spare changes. With the plethora of charities asking for donations, how can you decide where to send your contributions? Sure, you can always make monetary donations to the charity of your choice, but what if you want to offer something more personal? The following are some holiday programs to consider if you wish to contribute to a program benefitting our men and women in uniform.

The USO
Probably the most well-known organization that serves our troops, the USO is running several campaigns that aim to make spending the holidays overseas a little more cheerful. The USO offers holiday box items specifically for the winter holidays, and each box features seasonal greeting cards, holiday CDs and DVDs, hand and feet warmers, and New Year’s decorations. Each box contains enough supplies for 50 troops. The USO also offers USO Operation Phone Home that delivers prepaid international calling cards to troops free of charge. A $50 donation allows the troops to make 140 phone calls home. For more information about the USO, visit www.uso.org .

Operation Gratitude
Operation Gratitude first started its holiday campaign by running a candy buy-back program with dentistry offices across the country. Dentistry offices bought candy back from young trick-or-treaters and included the candy collected from the program in care packages sent to troops overseas. (One dentistry office in St. Louis collected more than 120 pounds of candy!) Now through December, Operation Gratitude is collecting hats and scarves to send in care packages. Volunteers can knit their own scarves, or donate to help with the expense of yarn and time spent knitting. For more information about Operation Gratitude, visit www.operationgratitude.com .

American Red Cross
For the fifth year, Pitney Bowes and the American Red Cross are offering their Holiday Mail for Heroes program that invites anyone to send holiday cards and correspondence to members of the military. The American Red Cross also offers special gifts through its Holiday Giving Catalog that directly help troops. Using the catalog, you can purchase caregiver training, military comfort kits, or phone cards to send overseas. For more information about the American Red Cross, visit www.redcross.org .

Any Soldier
Want to send a care packages overseas but don’t know anyone currently serving? The Any Soldier service allows you to see what items members of the military are asking for specifically. You can sort by branch of service, date of the request, where the unit is from, and other criteria to see what that specific unit is requesting. For more information about Any Soldier and sending care packages, visit www.anysoldier.com .

Operation Homefront
Have any furniture around your home or office that is gently used and you don’t need anymore? Operation Homefront, which provides urgent assistant to military families and wounded warriors, provides gently used appliances and furniture, baby items, and other household necessities to military families. Operation Homefront also offers financial assistance in the form of checks paid to mortgage lenders, contractors, doctors, as well as funding assistance regarding emergency home repairs, critical baby items, moving assistance, and transitional family housing. For more information about Operation Homefront, visit www.operationhomefront.net .

Soldiers’ Angels

Soldiers’ Angels offers the Blankets of Hope program that creates handmade blankets for wounded service members and veterans. The blankets, which are used on wheelchairs, hospital beds, and on medevac flights, are sent to hospitals in war zones, major medical facilities across the world, and selected military hospitals and veterans centers in the United States. Volunteers can join a sewing team, make a no-sew blanket, or make a donation to cover the cost of shipping and supplies. For more information on Soldiers’ Angels, visit www.soldiersangels.org .

Adopt a Platoon
Adopt a Platoon offers two programs during the holidays that offer contributions to the troops. The first campaign asks supports to send holiday stockings to troops . Each stocking can be filled with candy, socks, hot chocolate or cider packets, travel-size toiletry items, or any other holiday-themed goodies. You can also include a holiday card for a personal touch on the stockings. The second program, Operation Holiday Eagle , asks for candy canes wrapped in red, white, and blue ribbon to send to the soldiers. You can also send New Years’ decorations in addition to the sweet holiday treats. Both of these campaigns run until December 12 and require you to send an application on the Adopt a Platoon website prior to sending anything overseas. For more information on Adopt a Platoon, visit www.adoptaplatoon.org .
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