For The Troops Sends Care Packages to Active-Duty Service Men and Women
When our servicemen and women begin serving the United States overseas, they are given a uniform, meals and a place to sleep. But not too much else.
“Many people don’t know this, but our troops have to buy all their own personal stuff at the PX,” said Evelyn Goldman, operations team leader at For The Troops for the past 13 years.
“That includes toothbrushes and toothpaste, shampoo, foot powder, deodorant and just about every other personal hygiene item.”
It was this realization that inspired Paula Cornell to launch this all-volunteer-run, nonprofit organization in 2005.
Filling a Vital Need
Cornell noticed that her husband didn’t brush his teeth one morning. When she asked him about it, he replied, “It’s no big deal. I didn’t brush my teeth for a year in Vietnam.”
He then told her about a number of other items he had lived without during his tour of duty. It bothered her that so many Americans laying their lives on the line for their country were living without basic daily necessities we take for granted.
So, she and Janie Josephson launched For The Troops, which is dedicated to providing members of the American military with “We Care” packages. These packages contain basic necessities, goodies, games and a show of support to our heroes.
“It’s important to remember that these brave men and women have volunteered for this service,” Goldman said.
“They get a stipend, but they have to bring or buy their own personal items. And that also includes things like books, magazines and crossword puzzles.”
240,000 Packages and Counting
So far, more than 240,000 “We Care” packages have been sent to active-duty U.S. troops. Most are sent to the Middle East, but some go to ships and aircraft carriers in various places around the world.
Items found in these packages include:
- Baby wipes and hand sanitizers
- Cotton swabs and loofahs
- Hygiene products including toothpaste and sunblock
- Athletic socks
- DVDs, CDs, crossword puzzles and puzzle books
- Magazines, newspapers and comics
- Stationery, pens and greeting cards
- Granola bars and oatmeal
- Dried fruit, raisins and nuts
- Canned tuna, chicken, chili and stew
- Gum, candy and hard candy
- Chocolate candy (September through April)
- Individual-sized pre-sweetened powdered drink mix
- Individual-sized coffee and tea
- Snack-sized beef jerky
- Trail mix and Pop-Tarts
- Applesauce fruit cups
- Small jars of peanut butter and jelly
- Dried Asian noodle soup
- Non-prescription medications including aspirin, ibuprofen, eye drops, foot powder and cold/allergy medications
- Letters of appreciation to the troops from children and adults
Chaplains Identify More Recipients
“When someone requests that a care package go to an individual serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, we usually contact the chaplain at the unit,” Goldman said. “That request can lead to many more.”
In addition to individual care packages, For The Troops sends what Goldman calls “fluff boxes.” These are larger boxes to be shared, containing sports equipment such as tennis balls, compressed footballs, volleyballs, basketballs and soccer balls.
At the ForTheTroops.org website, visitors can learn more about the organization. As well as ways to donate funds, product or letters of encouragement to the troops.
“We have a place on the site that gives specific instructions for the letters,” she said. “Our troops love hearing from supporters back home.”
Pandemic Complicates Process
Goldman wears many hats at For The Troops. She handles purchasing and coordinates donations.
She also gives speeches to various organizations, including women’s clubs, churches and temples, and conducts additional outreach. Her husband spends many hours putting together the care packages.
Like nearly everything else in our society these days, this labor of love has become more complicated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The donated headquarters at Sycamore Village mall in Simi Valley, California is now only open for donations by appointment. Donations are way down and fewer people are able to put the care packages together.
Volunteering Is Affected
“We were sending about 2,000 packages a month, but recently we’re down to 500 or 600,” Goldman said.
“We have to be careful about how many volunteers can work at once. Prior to COVID, we had a steady core group of 15 to 45 people volunteering their time every day.
“We also had ‘visitations’ from schools and corporations as part of their community service efforts.
“That’s not happening now, which is why my husband has turned our garage into a headquarters. It’s time-consuming work because many items have to be individually wrapped before they go in a box.”
Fundraisers Get Cancelled
Even more damaging to nonprofits such as For The Troops has been the cancellations of fundraisers this year.
“We normally have two big fundraising events each year,” Goldman said. “One is a huge gala at The Ronald Regan Presidential Library. The other is a golf tournament. We were not able to have either of them this year.
“In addition, sometimes local restaurants will designate certain hours in which a percentage of their profits go to For The Troops. But fewer people are eating in restaurants these days.
“And some organizations such as Bank of America have a volunteer day when they bring in 30 or 40 people to help us. But now that’s not occurring.”
Every Donation Helps
Every quarter, 4Patriots donates Patriot Power Greens, Patriot Power Protein and Emergency Food Bars to For The Troops.
They will gladly accept donations from individuals as well. But Goldman says they’d prefer checks to products, saving the donor the freight expense of shipping to their headquarters.
Goldman said For The Troops is very careful how every dollar they receive is spent. “We don’t spend a dime on advertising,” she said. “It’s all word of mouth.
“We’re tightwads with the money. We make every dollar count. Every dollar that comes in is used for products and postage. We’re a grassroots, 100 percent volunteer-run group. We have no payroll and we do it all year ‘round.”