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connect / 2016

Operation Gratitude - Americans Saying “Thank You” To All Who Serve

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by Operation Gratitude

Through hands-on Volunteerism, Operation Gratitude provides Angelenos of every age and background an uplifting way to thank all who serve by creating Care Packages of handmade and donated goodies.

Please describe your project proposal.

Every year, thousands of local Operation Gratitude volunteers form a human assembly line to create 200,000+ care packages for Active Military, their children, Veterans, First Responders, Wounded heroes & Caregivers. Each package contains up to 50 snack, entertainment & handmade items, toiletries & personal letters. Our proposal is to provide every Angeleno an opportunity to express their gratitude to all who serve by engaging in hands-on activities at our facility and in their own communities.

Which of the connect metrics will your proposal impact?​

  • Social & emotional support
  • Rates of volunteerism
  • Total number of local social media friends and connections Angelenos have

In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • San Fernando Valley
  • County of Los Angeles

Describe in greater detail how your proposal will make LA the best place to connect?

Operation Gratitude offers fulfilling volunteer activities and a sense of purpose to the residents of Los Angeles.

During each Assembly Day–15 to 20 per year– we host 500-1000+ local volunteers who assemble thousands of Care Packages within just 3 hours. Year-to-date, 10,197 Los Angeles-area residents have assembled 167,122 Care Packages at our facility in Chatsworth. In addition, thousands of Angelenos have hosted Collection Drives and donated items, hand-made scarves and hats, and made “survival” paracord bracelets to include in the packages.

Operation Gratitude provides more than just the creation of Care Packages. For retirees, the elderly, the handicapped and Veterans of all eras, Operation Gratitude is a way to stay active and engaged while still serving their country in a meaningful way. Students complete community service hours while working with our diverse group of volunteers and gaining respect for our nation’s service members. Corporate employees find great team building exercises, but also a heartwarming experience – especially when putting their own products into care packages.

On any given day at Operation Gratitude, one will see volunteers of all ages, veterans, corporate executives, people of every race, religion, ethnicity, ability, and political persuasion working together to put a smile on a hero’s face and say “Thank You.” It’s a perfect reflection of the diversity of Los Angeles, and we are proud to create a community that is so accepting and interactive.

The extraordinary diversity within our community of volunteers would be striking to a spectator, but those differences are invisible to the volunteers as they work side by side in mission-driven action.

Discrimination does not exist when gratitude is being expressed.

Most importantly, we believe we’re the number one organization providing a critical bridge between the First Responder/Military Communities and the Civilian population – closing a social and emotional divide that many have noted causes a serious rift in our society.

As one example, on September 11, 2016, in commemoration of the 15th anniversary of 9-11, we gathered 1,300 volunteers to work shoulder to shoulder with dozens of LAPD and LAFD members. Together they created over 11,000 Care Kits to distribute to every Los Angeles area First Responder. This was an opportunity to see the best in each other and develop mutual trust and respect.

The ultimate bridge between these communities occurs when the Care Package recipients open the packages, read the personal letters, wrap themselves in the handcrafted scarves, place the handmade paracord bracelets on their wrist, enjoy the snacks, and use the toiletries. Then they truly understand the immense generosity and effort that went into assembling each box by hand.

This is Los Angeles connecting and saying “Thank You” to all who serve.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.​

Operation Gratitude measures success through quantitative and qualitative metrics. Key performance indicators include the numbers of: volunteers, in-kind and financial donations, and package recipients.

The true benefits and ultimate success of the Operation Gratitude program, however, can be found in the Mail Call section of our website which displays thousands of letters from heroes who have received the Care Packages. One theme that runs through the letters is how surprised and appreciative they are that total strangers have taken the time to show they care: “We expect to get things from friends and family, but you sent me something out of a deep respect for your country & its defenders. That’s powerful.”

Equally important is our ability to touch troops who served during previous wars. A former 82nd Airborne Paratrooper from WWII wrote: ‘It’s a great feeling to know that we haven’t been forgotten. Because of you & all Americans like you, our country remains strong and united.”

The most dramatic illustration of our impact was received from an Army First Sergeant: ‘Your care packages lifted morale & helped save the life of a young soldier who never got mail, care packages, or anything. He was planning to commit suicide on Christmas, but because that soldier received your care package on Christmas Eve, he changed his mind. Your care package made a major difference in a human life. Because of your organization, one less family received terrible news at Christmas.’

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money
  • Volunteers
  • Publicity/awareness
  • Network/relationship support