One very meaningful community service project that I participated in this year was working for Operation Gratitude. This is a non-profit organization that sends packages and personal letters to U.S. troops in hostile and remote regions of the world like Iraq and Afghanistan. The packages consist of letters, snacks, toiletries, and entertainment items such as Cds, DVDs, and playing cards. All of the items sent to the soldiers are donated by various companies and individuals. The letters are written by volunteers that express appreciation, good wishes, love and support. The armory in Van Nuys is the location from which Operation Gratitude works and where volunteers gather to pack the boxes, address and attach the mailing labels, and write the letters. To date, Operation Gratitude can proudly say that 320,946 packages have been sent overseas.
On a Saturday morning in December, my parents and I joined other families to take part in this project. In adition to the numerous students and families, there were also teenagers that were there who had been enrolled in a Sheriff’s Program. The founders of this program created a highly organized procedure to fill these boxes and send them to their destinations. My job was to write the names and addresses of the soldiers on labels, while my parents were on an assembly line filling the boxes. My mom’s friend, Vicki, and I sat at a table with the packed boxes piled next to us. I had a list of the soldiers’ names and addresses that I needed to write on each label that would eventually be attached to a package. I was feeling a sense of community and unity as everyone was working together to create these packages for our troops.
As I addressed each label, I was thinking about the soldiers. I was thinking about what the families were feeling and how they were coping with being so far away from their loved one, and how they feel knowing that their loved one is constantly in harm’s way. As I wrote each name, I was trying to visualize what the serviceman or woman might look like, Vicki and I would comment to each other as we came upon a Jewish name. I felt that what I was doing was very important, and eventhough I didn’t know these people, the package would put a smile on their faces.
I am proud that I could take part in such a fabulous and worthwhile mission. Operation Gratitude continues to support our troops and offers the community many ways to become involved. Donations and volunteer hours help make this organization run efficiently and effectively as they sucessfully work to acheive their goal. In the future, I intened to participate again in an Operation Gratitude Volunteer Day. I am so grateful for the brave men and women who put their lives on the line everyday to defend our country. I hope they all come home safely, very soon.