I think most people have good hearts and are willing to help others, but it can be difficult to know how we can best be of service. We tend to think of “charity” as orphanages and Christmas food drives. It can be a lot simpler than that, though. There’s a great way to help people who really need and deserve it–our soldiers fighting overseas.
All summer long my kids and I have been sending care packages to our soldiers in harm’s way through Any Soldier.com. This is such a wonderful organization. Soldiers put in requests on behalf of their group (sometimes it’s as few as three people, sometimes as many as fifty). These soldiers have to rely on the local base shop (called a PX) for toiletries and other things. But many bases don’t have a PX, or else it’s badly stocked. The prices are pretty steep as well.
These soldiers (there are over 90,000 soldiers registered with Any Soldier) put in requests for things like shampoo, deodorant and toothbrushes. Plain old necessities that aren’t even provided. How sad is it that our troops are going without some of the basics? Some soldiers request snacks (nothing homemade is allowed. Bummer.) and magazines and anything to remind them of home. They especially love pictures drawn by kids.
Listen to this request by Sgt. Latrice Dixon:
“We have soldiers here who are away from home the first time and some who are out here with no family at all. This will allow the morale of those who do not receive anything to be able to feel appreciated, and know that there are people out there thanking them for their service. The things we need here are body wash, Tampax Pearls, Maxi Pads with wings, Shampoo, conditioner and lotion. White socks, calling cards and notebooks would all be appreciated. Snacks would be welcome too due to the limited supply they have here.”
So this is how it works: go to the Any Soldier Website. Click on “where to send” and you’ll see a list of the names of soldiers. Click on a soldiers name and it will tell you how many people he/she is writing on behalf of (and how many are males/females), where they are from and how many civilians have requested their address. It’s totally addictive reading all the request from soldiers (I personally like to choose soldiers who haven’t had very many requests. I feel bad that someone might be forgotten out there.) When you’ve decided on a soldier, you click next to their name to request their address. You have to fill out a little form with your name, address and email. Within a couple of minutes you will receive the soldiers physical address. Then you go shopping or maybe see what you have around your house.
When it comes time to mail the package, I suggest sending a large flat rate box from the USPS. You can fill it as full as you want and it goes to an APO address, so you only have to pay U.S. shipping rates. Plus the government knocks off a couple of dollars for the large box so it costs something like $11.50 for postage. (You do have to fill out a customs form, by the way.) Also be sure to put any food and all toiletries in ziplocks. Not only can stuff spill/melt, but the food can take on the scent of the some of the toiletries (gross!).
Taking your kids to the store to help them shop for the soldiers is a great way to teach them to think of others. And it’s nice knowing that people who deserve it will be receiving things that they really need. Kids are also good at drawing pictures and writing cute letters. York wrote to one soldier and told her all about his favorite weapons. She wrote a really sweet letter back to him and told him all about the weapons she uses. He was pretty excited.
Most of the soldiers don’t reply (they’re a bit busy, you know, defending themselves. Plus stationery can be a bit hard to come by), but sometimes they’ll send a thank-you via email, if you send your email address along.
P.S. This is a great activity for Family Home Evening! Have the kids do pictures/letters then go shopping.