With the holidays comes the spirit of giving and often that includes charitable activities. For anyone wishing to do a little more this year, we thought we would pass on this great list below. Take a moment and read how you can give to those that cannot be with their families this year.
By Linda Natali, eHow Contributor
updated: September 15, 2010
What do the Hooter Girls, Kid Rock, Stephen King and AT&T have in common? They have all played Santa to America’s soldiers. In the midst of such generous giving during the holiday season, you may wonder what you, too, can do to help a soldier in need. But don’t worry–there are plenty of ways you can help Santa satisfy Christmas wishes for our nation’s hard-working troops and their families.
- Sacrifice for soldiers. Supporting soldiers and their families during the holidays has never been easier. Consider making a donation to one of the more than 300 nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping our troops and their families listed on the Community Relations section of the Defense Department website. The most active charities include those supported by AT&T, Sears and the USO. Trees for Troops provides more than 16,000 Christmas trees to 51 bases across the globe. Donate or purchase items from the organization and the money goes toward providing a Christmas tree to a military family. Sears Heroes at Home Wish Registry fulfills Christmas wishes for thousands of deserving military families and personnel with your contributions. Donate to Operation Phone Home (AT&T and the USO) and give troops the chance to make a free call home over the holidays.
- Serve a specific soldier. AnySoldier.com provides directions to donate care packages to soldiers in any branch of the military that are stationed in harm’s way. They have helped about 93,861 service members to date. This website provides a list of soldiers’ names and their wants and needs and will walk you through the steps to get your care package or letter of encouragement into the hands of a needy soldier.
- “Soldierfy” your search engine. GoodSearch is a Yahoo-powered search engine that donates 50 percent of its revenue–about a penny per search–to listed American charities and schools designated by its users. The donated money comes from the site’s advertisers. If the charity you would like to support is not listed, you can add them on GoodSearch’s homepage. Add the GoodSearch toolbar to your homepage and begin donating today.
- Salute soldiers through sales. Purchase merchandise through GoodShop, an online shopping mall dedicated to helping fund worthy causes across the country. Every purchase made through the GoodShop mall results in a donation to your charity of choice equaling around 3 percent–and sometimes up to 20 percent–of the sale. What an easy way to provide funding to charities doing good work for our troops.
- Pay the postage. Many organizations that provide care packages and letters of encouragement to soldiers have enough donations for goods, but lack the postage necessary to ship the packages to Iraq or Afghanistan. In some cases, the organizations spend more than $10,000 a month on postage. Consider donating a nominal check earmarked specifically for postage to defray these ever-rising costs.
- Throw a dog a bone. Canine soldiers are the often forgotten heroes of war. They sniff out bombs and mines, build morale, relieve stress and provide comfort to men and women fighting abroad. These dogs need a variety of equipment while stationed at these desert locations to keep them comfortable and to help them do their jobs and keep the troops safe. Some of the top-requested items for dogs supporting U.S. troops include dog brushes; water bowls (including collapsible bowls); large dog beds; latex toys and refillable Kong toys; dog snacks and treats; unscented dog shampoo; and veterinarian-type dog scales, which can be found online. One final item: a RPCM Chilly Dog Cool Vest, which dog handlers recommend to help keep them cool in 135-degree summer heat. Dogs pant more when they are hot, which diminishes their ability to detect explosives and puts military members’ lives at risk.
- Give rugged gifts and gear. The gritty, sandy, hot desert conditions of make-shift bases mean it is essential that any items you send overseas are rugged enough to withstand the harsh environment. Sturdy gifts also help guarantee that they will withstand the battlefield and make their way home with the service member after a tour of duty. Look for gifts that military men and women really appreciate: a rugged and waterproof digital camera; watches from Casio’s G-Shock series; and semi-rugged laptops suitable for Iraq such as the Itronix VR-2 Panasonic Toughbook (which feature steep prices, so buyer beware). You will want to get them one more thing: a water-, shock- and dust-resistant Pelican case to store and protect their precious new electronic gear.
- Help at home. Many spouses of deployed members could use some help around the house. Provide minor repairs, shovel snow, clean up a yard, help with housecleaning and change a car’s oil to provide services that any military family would appreciate. Babysitting while the remaining spouse holiday shops or taking the kids shopping for the deployed or at-home parent can be useful. Wrapping presents, providing meals or baked goods, and helping with the decorations are all fantastic ways to play Santa during the holidays to the families of those stationed abroad.
- Letters for Lyrics – Write a Letter to a Soldier, Get a Free Breaking Southern Ground CD.
- Where is Santa? – Learn About Santa’s Christmas Eve Flight All Around The World.
- Troops Over the Holidays – Remember Our Troops Over the Holidays. Donate to Send a Package!
- Wounded Heroes Need Help – Adapted homes for severely injured veterans Iraq/Afgh…No Paid Staff!
Tips & Warnings
Most military bases’ PXs overseas now well-stocked with cookies, candies, snack foods and beverages; toiletries and personal hygiene products; small electrical appliances, personal electronic products and batteries; CDs, DVDs, magazines and books. Only send these items if a personal favorite is unavailable or if a military member asks for them. Don’t send food and scented items together. Several weeks in transit can result in nasty-tasting cookies. Dog equipment made in China is not allowed.
- The USO Website
- Boots on the Ground
- Give 2 The Troops
- Community Relations for the Defense Department
- Sears Heroes at Home Wish Registry
(Thank you to eHow.com for putting together this great list)