Operation Gratitude is one of those organizations that was borne out of one person’s determination to do something that mattered. After 9-11, founder Carolyn Blashek resisted the urge to watch 24-7 news coverage and wring her hands, and instead got up off the couch to start something.
Her first thought was to join the Military. It turns out that being a 46-year-old mother of two she made her too old for duty, so instead she volunteered at the military lounge in the Los Angeles airport.
One day in March 2003, a soldier came into the office. He was on leave from a war zone for his mother’s funeral; his wife had left him; his only child died as an infant. With nobody else in his life, he broke down at Carolyn’s desk and told her, “I’m going back over there; I don’t think I’ll make it back this time, but it really doesn’t matter because no one would even care.”
This soldier’s torment led to an important insight: when bullets are flying, it’s critical for troops to know that someone cares about them as an individual. And that’s when Operation Gratitude was born.
Carolyn wanted to provide a personal and hands-on connection with our troops overseas, and that started with her personal network. She started asking everyone she met if they knew a deployed service member needing extra TLC so she could send them care packages of snacks and entertainment items. Most importantly, each package would include letters of encouragement from appreciative citizens.
Carolyn is now contacted by leaders and commanders in the field who see the positive impact the Operation Gratitude care packages have on their troops in combat. This grassroots organization that started in her dining room now encompasses churches, schools, businesses and service groups all over the country donating items and writing letters to service members through Operation Gratitude. Since November 2003, Operation Gratitude has conducted its packing Drives in the California Army National Guard Armory in Van Nuys, California.
Of course, any great group needs great gear. Carolyn started a CafePress shop to support Operation Gratitude; here’s what she says about it:
As a grass-roots organization, word about Operation Gratitude primarily spread through word of mouth–and online. We started receiving a lot of requests for Operation Gratitude logo items so people anywhere in the country could display their support for Operation Gratitude. As we have no budget for marketing or advertising, publicity through logo items was a great way to expand our reach. Yet, we also had no budget to stock inventory of items. As soon as I learned about Cafe Press, I knew we had the perfect solution!
In order to help Carolyn help our troops overseas, CafePress has partnered with Operation Gratitude to bring you special edition premium 4th of July t-shirts for the whole family. The “go fourth” design at the beginning of the post and the “remember” design at left are available on Premium men’s’, women’s and kids’ apparel.
So if you’ve been itching to stimulate the economy, here’s one way to do it in good conscience.