PHA Donates Health Bundle to For The Troops Gala

While serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq in 2005, Staff Sergeant Phillip Schmidt received a large package in the mail. 

As anyone who has served overseas knows, receiving a letter from family or friends is exciting. It’s a break from the tedium. And it feels great to know someone who loves you is thinking about you.

Packages are even better. Especially when they contain items you can’t acquire at the local PX. 

But when a package arrives in your name from someone you don’t know, well, that’s an even bigger thrill. And that’s exactly what occurred when Phil received the first-ever care package sent to a U.S. military member from For The Troops.

‘Forward’ Thinking Leads to Connection

“While in Iraq, I wrote blogs about my experience there and sent them out as emails to about 80 people,” Phil said.

“People only hear about what the news media tells us, so I wanted to give it a broader scope. Such as what daily life is like, what I saw there, whether the locals love us or hate us, etc.

“Many of those emails were forwarded to a variety of people. One of them was Paula Cornell, who worked in a law office and had not yet founded For The Troops. Paula rounded up donations from her office and put together a care package for me.

“It was a big box – 24 by 18 by 14 – and it included shortbread in a tin, DVD movies, chocolate and a lot more. Plus a card from Paula, which I still have because I saved everything from when I was there.”

Paula and Janie Josephson established the all-volunteer-run, nonprofit organization later in 2005.

‘Better Than Christmas as a Kid’

How did it feel to receive a care package from someone you did not know?

“Better than Christmas as a kid,” Phil responded. “Over there, there’s not a lot to look forward to other than going home. 

“We had two PXs for about 28,000 people on our Air Force Base. They had plenty of the basics like toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and stuff like that. But nothing like what I got in that care package.

 “When you get a package from a family member or friend, it’s awesome. But to get a package from an entity you don’t know – one that says ‘Thank you for your service and we’re thinking about you’ – it’s insane. It really lifts your morale.”

Gala Honors Gulf War Vets

Recently Phil was one of more than 500 people attending a For The Troops Military Tribute Gala honoring Gulf War veterans at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. Also in attendance was California Assembly member Jacqui Irwin. 

“It was a great event,” Phil said. “I sat at a table with my date and 10 sponsors. I thanked them for the privilege of being the first one to receive a care package from For The Troops. We had a good dinner, sang patriotic songs and enjoyed the auctions and raffle.”

The Patriot Health Alliance donated a premium health bundle for the live auction. It included Patriot Power Greens, Patriot Power Reds, Patriot Gold, a Patriot Power Blender, a Freedom Fridge and a SaunaWrap Therapeutic Blanket. 

The donation is part of 4Patriots and affiliated brands’ “$1K a Day” commitment in 2022. The company has pledged to give $365,000 in products and monetary donations this year to active-duty troops, veterans and their families.

Among other nonprofit organizations receiving donations from 4Patriots and the Patriot Health Alliance are Operation Homefront, Team Rubicon, A Soldier’s Child Foundation, Hire Heroes USA, Veterans Adventure Group, Honor Flight, and Pets for Vets.     

Bare Bones Provisions for Troops

For The Troops recognizes that when our servicemen and women begin serving the U.S. 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.

“That includes toothbrushes and toothpaste, shampoo, foot powder, deodorant and just about every other personal hygiene item.”

Filling a Vital Need

A routine encounter with her husband gave Paula the idea for For The Troops 17 years ago. One morning she noticed that her husband didn’t brush his teeth. When asked 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 Paula 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.” 

260,000 Packages and Counting

So far, more than 260,000 “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 website, visitors can learn more about the organization. As well as ways to donate funds, products 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.” 

Phil Lauds For The Troops’ Commitment

Phil, who lives in Cathedral City, California, has been an air traffic controller at the Federal Aviation Administration for the past 10 years. He works at the Palm Springs Air Traffic Control Tower.

He often sings the praises of For The Troops. “I go to events there when they hit a milestone, such as the 250,000th care package sent last July. They treat me like a rock star.

“I feel like a lot of organizations claim this, but with this organization every single donated penny, minus the utility bills and shipping costs, goes to the troops. Nobody gets a paycheck and there are no company cars. 

“Care packages are still very important to our troops. Including the small conveniences to help in life overseas and snacks you can’t get anywhere else.

“You can’t support a better organization for care packages to U.S. troops than For The Troops,” Phil said. 

Every Donation Helps

Every quarter, Patriot Health Alliance donates products to For The Troops, such as Patriot Power Greens, Patriot Power Protein and Emergency Food Bars.

For The Troops will gladly accept donations from individuals as well. But Goldman says they’d prefer checks, 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.”

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