What is Co-Managed Care for Veterans?

Operation Gratitude

You’re at home, watching the news, and see another story regarding our men and women in Afghanistan. Or you watch a parent surprise his/her children by returning home early. You live somewhere that the military is not directly present; these stories seem far away. You want to help, but don’t know where to start, let alone how to help. Whether you live next to a military base or 500 miles away from the closest one, you can show your appreciation to our service members much easier than you may think.

Operation Gratitude is a non-profit organization whose mission is “to lift morale and put smiles on faces by sending care packages addressed to individual Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines deployed in harm’s way, to their children left behind, and to Wounded Warriors recuperating in Transition Units.” Started in the 2003 in Carolyn Blashek’s living room with four care packages, it has served sent close to 800,000 packages worldwide to service members (and their families). Operation Gratitude currently operates five direct-service programs, having expanded their services to families and veterans.

Deployed Troops — Troops in combat areas don’t exactly have regular access to the PX, nor does the PX they have contain what we back in the States are use to. Packages contain hygiene products, entertainment (books, iPods and iPd gift cards, etc), healthy pre-packaged snacks, handmade crafts, and letters of encouragement and appreciation.

Wounded Warriors — OG expanded its care package program to Deployed Troops to service members in military hospitals or Wounded Warrior Transition Units. Along with the usual items sent to deployed troops, this program seeks to add gift cards to major chain stores (Target, Walgreens, etc) to encourage service members to go out into their community during rehabilitation.

Battalion Buddies — Battalion Buddies sends stuffed animals to children whose parents are deploying. Each Buddy comes with a message stating “Hi Brave Young Warrior! I am your Battalion Buddy. I am here to cuddle with you while your Mommy or Daddy is away.” If your battalion will deploy, have your Family Readiness Officer email to sign up. Note;  this program is overwhelmed with requests; email as soon as possible.

Military Family Care Packages — Military veterans and their families experience a higher percentage of unemployment, and consequently, a higher percentage of homelessness. Military Family Care Packages contain many of the same things a Deployed Troop package contains, plus toys for children, laundry soap, non-perishable food, and many other items designed to alleviate the daily sting of homelessness. These packages are distributed through local veteran’s groups.

First Responders Kit — In cooperation with Team Rubicon, a first response organization made up of veterans and medical providers, OG makes pre-disaster kits filled with gear for first responders to simply “get up and go.” These kits contain items such as multi-purpose knives, gloves, towels, safety-glasses, and other items needed by volunteers who assist in recovery and relief after natural disasters.

You can get involved with this program in four main ways:

Financial Donations — It costs Operation Gratitude approximately $15 in postage for each care package it sends. With a goal of 100,000 care packages a year, plus 75,000 First Responder Kits (which cost more to send), it tends to get a bit spendy. Directly donating by credit or debit card can offset these costs and help OG focus on what goes in the packages, not on them.

Package Donations — Each package that goes out contains approximately $100-125 worth of product to each service member (not including the Battalion Buddies program). Hold a collection drive. Some items OG has previously asked for are Halloween candy, Beanie Babies, Webkinz, Trolls, Girl and Boy Scout Cookies, nuts, and popcorn. Handmade crafts of scarves, bandana cool-ties, paracord bracelets, and greeting cards are also requested. The Battalion Buddies program requests 15 inch stuffed animals. First Responder Kits also need donations, their list is a bit more extensive due to the nature of their work.

Letters — Take a minute and write a letter to our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines. This is one fo the simplest things you can do on your part, yet it means the most to those receiving the package. Knowing that you care makes a difference in the lives of our service members, and it only takes a few minutes.

Time — If you live in the Southern California Area, you can help directly. OG needs packagers, organizes two large product drives each year, and holds multiple fundraisers that need your help.

Kool Smiles is Proud to Announce Operation Troop Treats — This October 28th - November 5th, trade your Halloween candy for a toy and give troops something to smile about!

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