(BPT) – Americans often search for ways to show gratitude for the courage and sacrifice of our armed service members, but avenues to express appreciation for the bravery and dedication of our first responders may sometimes be overlooked. All of these heroes do so much for our country and for our local communities. Fortunately, there are many concrete, meaningful ways to thank both our first responders and service members.
In the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, here are five tangible ways to show your thanks for the people who serve our country, always putting the needs of others ahead of themselves.
1. Volunteer. Participate in an organization that offers comfort and support to those who serve. For example, Operation Gratitude has over 1 million volunteers, but there is always need for more. Through their efforts, care packages are delivered to active service members, veterans and first responders such as law enforcement and firefighters. Join the 2019 year-long campaign, ‘Make Every Minute Count,’ with the mission of delivering over 525,600 care packages (one for each minute of the year). Hundreds of cities in the U.S. will host an ‘Assembly Day’ or local events where you can help sort donated items and assemble care packages. These are great service projects for your family, youth group, community organization, house of worship or company.
2. Donate money. If you don’t have time to volunteer, monetary donations are welcome at many organizations serving specific heroes in our communities. Consider donating to organizations such as First Responders Children’s Foundation, which helps the children of first responders who are lost or permanently disabled in the line of duty; the D.C. Police Foundation, supporting police in the District of Columbia; Team Kids, which empowers kids to take on leadership positions in community service projects alongside first responders; or the Gary Sinise Foundation, which supports, supplies equipment for and trains first responders. Donating just $45 to Operation Gratitude ships three care packages to American heroes at home or abroad.
3. Donate goods. Whether as an individual or as part of a community group, collect goods to make care packages to thank and support active duty service members, veterans, law enforcement, firefighters and others who serve our country. Since 2003, Operation Gratitude has delivered more than 2.2 million care packages filled with 90 million items donated by grateful Americans and service-friendly companies expressing support for heroes serving overseas and at home. The wish list for care packages includes personal hygiene items, useful items like pencils and batteries, plus fun ways to pass the time such as cards or puzzle books. If you want to express your appreciation in a hands-on way, you can send a hero a handmade with love item by knitting or crocheting scarves and hats or crafting a paracord survival bracelet.
4. Make a personal connection. Get to know service members, veterans and first responders living and working in your own community. Attend events and open houses held in your neighborhood by local law enforcement, firefighters or groups supporting the military and their families. Find local resources for engaging with the heroes in your community and get to know them and what they do. If you know or meet someone who serves, thank them for their service in person. Ask them if there are concrete ways you can help them and their families.
5. Write a letter. Many who serve our country are deployed around the world, making them hard to contact. And we may not know the best way to connect with law enforcement members and firefighters who help our local communities. A heartfelt letter can mean so much. Find out how to write a letter to express your thanks here. Younger children, both in the classroom and at home, can even participate if not by writing, by drawing a picture to send along with a letter.
This year, resolve to thank all those heroes who serve our country, at home and abroad, by taking action. Celebrate, acknowledge and support our first responders, military and veterans – and their families. Showing them just how much you care and letting them know how much you truly appreciate their service will make a huge difference in their lives.