No dollar amount can reunite a servicemember with his or her family fast enough. However, charitable donations of items other than money can make a huge difference to military personnel when they're deployed overseas, hospitalized with injuries or adjusting to life back home.
"One of the most important things you can do with charitable giving for the military is to volunteer your time or send them something to help them," says Jackie Robinson, mother of a U.S. Marine and marketing manager of the University of Phoenix Military Division.
Yet with charitable organizations of all stripes serving the U.S. military, how do you choose? Consider these worthy organizations:
1. Help build a home.
Pick up a hammer and help Homes For Our TroopsSM build specially adapted residences for military veterans who have been severely injured in the line of duty. This charity helps injured veterans get accustomed to a civilian lifestyle without the additional worries of paying a mortgage or getting their family back on track, says Kristy Hernandez, who helps implement community charity events on behalf of the University of Phoenix Military Division.
There are a number of care-package organizations out there, but Hernandez recommends considering monetary donations to Packages From Home, a grassroots group that regularly ships servicemember-requested care packages, which might include a cozy shirt, some socks or much-desired toiletries. If you live in Arizona, you can even take part in packing parties.
Support our military troops — Manhattan-style — with a hard salami from Katz's Delicatessen. In its online Military Shop, the landmark Lower East Side deli continues the tradition it kicked off in World War II.
4. Send a military member a best friend.
Send a cuddly yet highly trained service dog to a servicemember making the transition to daily life. Canines for Combat Veterans finds canine companions through a program called Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans. These super smart dogs live with military members who have hearing difficulties or other disabilities, or who use prosthetics or a wheelchair — each pooch serving as a second pair of eyes, ears and, well, paws.
5. Grant a wish.
Look through the United Service Organizations' (USOSM) online shopping catalog, the Wishbook, to donate morale-boosting items to deployed servicemembers and their families. You can pay for phone calls home or a pocket-size family photo album to tuck inside a uniform. Knowing what it feels like to be apart from loved ones, Robinson says that these donations — along with the USO's many other volunteer programs — boost morale for all who are affected by the military member's call of duty. "People who volunteer in any way to help the families cope are doing a huge service to their country," she says.
Homes For Our Troops is a trademark of Homes For Our Troops Inc.
USO is a trademark of United Service Organizations Inc.