Are you looking for a fun and creative way to show your support for servicemembers and veterans? Well, look no further! This list is jam packed full of great ideas, organizations, and efforts that can help you leverage your passions, interests, or hobbies for a good cause.
Donate your used books
As a writer and avid reader, I tend to collect more books than I have room for. I’ve donated hundreds of books through Operation Paperback, a non-profit organization that collects gently-used books and sends them to American troops overseas. Type in the genres of books you have and you’ll receive a customized address list. You can ship books via media mail, so the cost is low. For a bigger impact, put a note in your neighbors mailboxes and ask them to drop off any books they have on your porch.
Buy a green lightbulb
Greenlight a Vet is a national campaign to establish visible support for veterans by changing one light in your home to green. Choose a room that’s visible from the outside. Take a picture of your light and share it on social media using the hashtag #greenlightavet. Then, post your light on the Greenlight a Vet map, which tracks lights across the country.
Do an obstacle course
Tough Mudder, a team obstacle course, has raised over $8 million for Wounded Warrior Project to help wounded warriors and their families. Go to toughmudder.com to learn more. This is a great opportunity for spouses or parents of deployed servicemembers to come together for something fun and meaningful.
Cook a meal
Contact your local veterans hospital and see if there are any veterans who don’t get many visitors. Invite them to your house for a home-cooked meal (especially on the holidays).
Knit a blanket
Navy-Marine Corp Relief Society offers helps new mothers in the service (and spouses) by offering a Budgeting for Baby course. Each mother leaves with a baby blanket handmade by a volunteer. I volunteered with NMCRS for several years, and I saw firsthand how much these blankets meant. You don’t have to live near a base to participate; contact any Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and ship the blankets to them.
Angel Bakers supports service members by sending a one-time care package every month of homemade baked goods to deployed troops. Angel Bakers focuses on those who may have been through an especially difficult experience during their deployment.
Foster a pet
Many servicemembers don’t have anyone to take care of their pets while they are deployed. Dogs on Deployment matches volunteers with pets in need of a temporary home. If you want an even bigger commitment, become a trainer for Patriot Paws to train service dogs for disabled American veterans and others with disabilities and PTSD.
Donate a suit
Many servicemembers who leave the service don’t have the right clothes for the civilian workforce. Donate a suit through Suit a Warrior or women’s attire through Dress for Success. It’s a great way to support servicemembers as they make the change into veteran status.
Throw a baby shower
Thousands of women across the country are going through pregnancy alone, and even giving birth, while their spouses are deployed. Operation Shower hosts showers for women across the country, and sends “showers in a box” to many more.
Write a letter
As a Sandboxx letter writer, you’re making sure your loved one gets that much-needed mail and encouragement. But many servicemembers don’t have anyone to write to them. Join Soldiers Angels Cards Plus team, which supports deployed service members, veterans, and their families with encouraging or celebratory cards and notes. Also, ask your loved one in the military if he or she knows someone who doesn’t get much mail; you can request cards for someone through the site.
Even if you don’t have the time, resources or skills for these opportunities, show support for servicemembers and veterans by hanging a yellow ribbon on your house, or putting a yellow ribbon magnet on your car. Sometimes, it’s the little things that make all the difference.
Victoria Kelly is the author of When the Men Go Off to War and Mrs. Houdini and a former military spouse. She graduated from Harvard University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Find her at victoria-kelly.com.
Feature photo courtesy of Airman Finley Williams, DoD