Crafting for a Cause - Operation Gratitude

Working at a Web Design studio, I spend much of my day navigating the web for information and inspiration. While the extent to which people (over)share frivolous information is sometimes alarming, every so often I find a real gem; I was elated to discover Operation Gratitude.

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Operation Gratitude "annually sends 100,000+ care packages filled with snacks, entertainment items and personal letters of appreciation addressed to individually named U.S. Service Members deployed in hostile regions, to their children left behind and to Veterans, First Responders, Wounded Warriors and their Care Givers. Their mission is to lift morale, bring a smile to a service member’s face and express to our Armed Forces the appreciation and support of the American people." 

In just ten days, Operation Gratitude will send their Millionth package. Yes, you read correctly: one million packages to past and present heroes and their families. 

Having been raised to consider the needs of others and attending a university that stressed Jesuit values, the notion of service above self has been relevant as long as I can remember. The pressing question remains,  how can we integrate service into our daily lives? Having my fair share of student loans, writing a lofty check to a worthy cause is not an option for me, at least not yet. But there are abundant other ways to help. 

Mother Teresa said it best. 

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” 

Operation Gratitude makes it easy and fun to do some good. I like crafting personally, so the hand-made projects looked to be the perfect opportunity. Admittedly, I horde scrapbooking materials and thus had an abundance of paper, decals, stickers, and blank cards on hand. My boyfriend James, a Veteran with twelve years of service in the United States Marine Corps, bought me a Cricut machine for Christmas last year; it was put to good use card making. 

Friends and family were over to celebrate my parents' anniversary, so I took advantage of the crowd, got everyone to the table, and distributed supplies. We decorated Christmas cards and signed them with heartfelt messages of thanks. The guys with poor handwriting relayed messages to be written by their wives; they stuck to stickers and glitter. This unlikely group of crafters made it all the more memorable. 

My friend Lindsay, who makes quite a fantastic Christmas card I might add,  is a school teacher and was motivated to get her students involved too. The children wrote letters to the troops, decorating them with hand-shaped American flags.

Fostering gratitude is important in younger generations. Tthis type of experience will likely leave an impact on them.  As they age, they will hopefully continue to give of themselves to deserving people and causes.

As the holidays draw near, I know not everyone will be home with their loved ones. Some are called to serve abroad and their families are called to carry on at home. Others dedicate their lives to bringing these families comfort and support.  All sorts are heroes in my eyes and it is essential we say thanks...

 Thank you.


How will you share your gratitude this year? 

To learn more about Operation Gratitude and the great work they do, follow them on PinterestTwitter , or Facebook

A Best Buddy

The sun was shining magnificently during the Student Activities fair my freshman year of college. I wandered around the lawn, from table to table, club to club, trying to discern how I would spend those four formative years of my life. Although I had an inkling of the organizations I was looking for, I tried to be open-minded to the whole experience. Thankfully, my future found me.

Kate was sitting at the Best Buddies table, smiling ear to ear; her warmth drew me in immediately. She was the Buddy Director for the Georgetown chapter of Best Buddies, an organization that facilitates one-to-one friendships for people with intellectual disabilities.  Kate spoke with unmatched enthusiasm and her spirit was contagious. I signed up for Best Buddies on the spot.

My first year of Best Buddies, I was a general member. The years following, an Activities coordinator, College Buddy Director, and eventually the Chapter President. All the while, Kate was by my side. We planned Best Buddies events, baked our fair share of cookies, and drank more than enough chocolate milk at our favorite coffee shop, Saxby’s. Sleepovers, High School Musical sing-alongs, and chicken finger dates brightened my college experience.  Kate and the greater Best Buddies population restored my faith in people.

My original understanding of volunteerism was all wrong, I came to realize. I had initially thought that we volunteer to give of ourselves, but I was always on the receiving end of the service with Best Buddies. I came away from every encounter a better, more genuine and whole person. To this day, Kate shares with me an incomparable vitality. She lives with purpose, embraces everyone she encounters, and is never without a smile.

Although I graduated from school two years ago and have since moved away from Washington,  Kate and I talk on the phone weekly and write letters to one another. She is extraordinary at keeping in touch. Another testament to how deeply she cares about the people she loves. How abundant her capacity is to make people feel significant and valued.  While schedules prevent us from getting together as frequently as I would like (Kate’s social calendar is and always has been extensive), we are still able to have sleepovers every few months, thankfully. Homemade pizza, Scrabble, pajamas, and movies always make for the perfect girls’ night.

I couldn’t have imagined the world Kate would open for me when I was just a freshman looking to belong.  She gives me a fresh perspective, honest advice, and the very best hugs.  Kate reminds me to take life as it comes and simply do my best. There are never pretenses or motives. Kate is free from these unsavory habits that litter a great part of our society. Some may say that Kate has a disability. To me, she has nothing short of every ability that is truly worthwhile.