Contributed by Tiffany Silverberg
Care packages for soldiers, sailors and service men and women are a great way to get your community or group working together to support the troops. Gather your ideas, supplies, and a bunch of friends to put together care packages that are fun, helpful, and well-loved. With a plan, a bit of creativity, and some delegation, you can create care packages that will brighten up long, lonely days for troops who are deployed away from home.
Get a Group
You certainly can create and send care packages for soldiers by yourself, but it’s more fun and approachable if you bring a group together. In this way, you can split up the costs and send items more often. This becomes an easy, inspiring task for groups to work on together. You can make it the charitable focus of your office, your social club, or your friends. Assembling care packages can be a productive, yet fun activity to bring to your next get together.
Make a Contact
You will need a name and address before you can send care packages for soldiers. You can no longer send a package “To Any Service Member.” If you don’t have a contact through family or friends, you can get in touch with a local organization such as Blue Star Families, the USO, Operation Homefront, and other support groups. You may just need to ask around your faith groups, neighborhood, and social organizations. Let them know about your group’s interest in supporting through care packages.
Choose a Theme
Make the whole process fun and a bit easier by coming up with care package themes. You can even put a calendar together with themes for each month or so. Keep in mind that it can take weeks, even a month or two, for care packages for soldiers to reach their destination. Put together holiday-themed packages well in advance. Service members will appreciate having specific holiday items arrive around the right time. Gifts and treats from home will certainly bring smiles.
Fill It Up
The great thing about working with a group on this project is the ability to divide and conquer. After you choose a theme, you can ask people to volunteer or sign up for specific ingredients. Maybe some people bring the snacks and edible treats. Maybe some people find activities, books, games, and other distractions. Maybe some focus on the more practical items such as toiletries. Make it a challenge to see who can find the most pedestrian items that reflect the theme chosen. Finally, get together and start packing!
Considerations As You Pack
Remember that it can take a while for care packages for soldiers to arrive to their destination., so consider shelf life of perishable items. Homemade treats and sweets are well-intentioned, but won’t be well-enjoyed if they have molded or otherwise turned bad before they arrive. Air-tight and well-sealed items arrive freshest. Also, keep in mind the climate and weather at the destination. Items like chocolate can turn into a soupy mess if the box is likely to sit on a hot tarmac somewhere. Depending on the destination, there may be restrictions on what you cannot send because of country specific regulations.
If you are sending a box to service members deployed overseas, including underway on a ship, you will have to fill out a customs form. You will find it easiest to have the form with you while you are filling the box. You may want to put someone in charge of filling out the form while you are packing it up. You will need to list each item as well as quantity and price. You will also need to include the return address and recipient address. The USPS website has more information about filling out customs forms.