Hal Chapel, CEO and Co-Founder of Lotsa Helping Hands
This Independence Day week, we are reminded that freedom does not come without sacrifice. So many people before us – citizens of the early American colonies, national leaders, and family ancestors – have all made sacrifices for our freedom. But freedom is not static. Most freedoms we value require constant attention. Even our own personal independence demands we shoulder responsibility – financially, at work, at home, or in our community. Military families, especially, need our help to retain their own independence.
How many stories have we all heard over the past ten years about members of the military sacrificing their time, families, bodies, and lives in order to help protect the freedoms valued by their fellow citizens? How many times have we skipped over news stories about the hardships military families endure, not wanting to be reminded again of their fear, loneliness, or struggles as they face a loved one being deployed, returning home wounded, or learning that someone will never come back? We can all learn from those folks who won’t rest as long as there are military families in their town or neighborhood that continue to make sacrifices on our behalf.
At Lotsa Helping Hands, we’ve had the honor to witness more than 500 Communities that have helped military families across the country. Most of these have been Private Communities that help a single family faced with the sudden changes in everyday life as they struggle trying to balance care for a wounded soldier.
But we’ve also seen volunteers organize using the Lotsa Helping Hands Open Communities Model, and take on the responsibility of assisting their fellow citizens in local towns and neighborhoods. I have personally watched my own hometown in Massachusetts assist countless families for over seven years under the moniker of the Sudbury Angels. When my daughter’s high school friend and classmate was killed in his first month in Afghanistan, the entire town was devastated. Scott was loved by everyone – he’d been the captain of the hockey team, was the executive officer of his college’s ROTC program, and always made everyone smile whenever he was in the room. The 400 members of the Sudbury Angels organized the entire town to lay flowers at his family’s home. And I still get chills remembering the day he was buried, thinking how his family must have felt as they drove through town returning from Washington D.C., seeing the thousands of yellow ribbons and flags lining every street in town to honor their fallen son and brother.
The Sudbury Angels have also helped young families when one of the parents was deployed and the family needed extra assistance or simply emotional support. They have shoveled snow when needed – and brought Christmas gifts during the holiday season. There is no doubt the spirit and pride in town increased because of efforts made by the Sudbury Angels to help their fellow neighbors.
As we celebrate and honor our nation’s military families, our team started talking about things we could do – large and small – to remind the men, women, parents, spouses, siblings and friends of military families that we have not forgotten. Here is a short list of things we’ve come up with:
- Say Thank You – if you see a man or woman in uniform take a moment and thank them for their service. It doesn’t take long and will make a big impact.
- Get Involved – visit your local military hospital and offer to pay a visit, make a donation to one of the many veterans’ service organizations dedicated to supporting our military families.
- Volunteer – if you have military families in your local town or neighborhood, consider organizing volunteers in your town to help them. You can use the Lotsa Helping Hands free service to bring volunteers together to deliver meals, help with yard work, coordinate child care, and much more.