How to send care packages to US troops
For our monthly Power of One Hour project, we skip a regular club meeting and use the time to work together in a hands-on service. This month, we assembled care packages for our troops.
Confession: It was a little confusing to navigate HOW to send the care packages. The steps below are the results of what we learned this go-round:
1. Determine to whom you are sending the care packages.
You can no longer send mail to "Any Service Member," so you must address your care package(s) to specific people or platoons.
1a. If you know or have a connection to a serviceman or woman, request that person's military address.
1b. If you do know or have a connection to someone in the military, you can partner with an organization that will provide you with an address.
Military.com provides this list of organizations that help send gifts, cards and care packages to our troops:
Adopt a Platoon -- Support the troops through gifts and sponsored mail.
Any Soldier -- Sponsor care packages to servicemembers in Iraq.
Army and Air Force Exchange Services -- Purchase gift certificates for active and hospitalized servicemembers.
Blue Star Mothers -- Organizes postcards to troops and care packages, and is currently petitioning Congress for reduced air fares for servicemembers.
Books for Soldiers -- Donate books, movies, and more.
Cell Phones for Soldiers -- Donate your old cell phones, which pay for calling cards for our troops.
Commissary Gift Certificates -- Give the gift of groceries -- buy or donate gift certificates.
A Million Thanks -- Collects emails and letters of appreciation for our armed forces.
Operaton Dear Abby -- Send greetings and messages of support.
Operation Give -- Donate toys to be given to the children of Iraq.
Operation Gratitude -- Contribute to care packages sent to our servicemembers.
Operation Homefront Hugs -- Contribute to care packages, or adopt a servicemember.
Operation Troop Aid -- Provide care packages for our deployed U.S. Servicemembers.
Operation USO Care Package -- Sponsor a care package for $25.
Note that some of the organizations above allow you to a) sponsor financially, b) others offer to serve as a middle man, and c) others help connect you to specific soldier or platoon if you want to assemble the care packages yourself. We selected the last option (c).
2. Obtain specific USPS boxes, shipping labels, and forms.
You can pick up boxes and labels from your local Post Office. We stopped by our local post office and picked up Priority Mail APO/PO Flat Rate Boxes (12"x12"x5-1/2").
You can skip a trip the Post Office by printing shipping labels at home from USPS.com.
You may also have a specific form from US Customs, which can be ordered online and shipped to you, or you can complete the form online - if you print your shipping label online, USPS will walk you through which forms you have to complete.
Order boxes, print labels and complete forms online here.
3. Set a date and time for care package date assembly. Find a location.
Allow plenty of time for your boxes and forms to arrive prior to the date of the event. If you are short on time, you can pick up the boxes from your local Post Office, and complete labels and forms online later.
5. Invite others to join you. Ask each person to bring a few items to include in a care package.
If you do not have a budget to purchase items, consider asking each member to bring a few items. This will give each attendee personal ownership of the event. The items on the list range in price, so it is accessible to almost all members to make a contribution (of course, if someone can't contribute an item, that's ok!). Adopt a Platoon provides a list of suggested items, and also a list of items that cannot be included. Read the list here >>
5. Host your assembly event.
It's the big day! For our event, we used these supplies: 5 folding tables, chairs, 3 clipboards, greeting cards/thank you notes, pens, packing tape, USPS boxes and forms - and of course, you'll need items to include in the care packages!
You'll need to arrive early to set up. For our group of 30, we set up several folding tables: two to sort items, one to write out cards, and two to assemble packages. You can adjust the number of tables/chairs based on the number of people you expect to attend. You need chairs at the table where the cards will be written.
At our event, we started with the Pledge of Allegiance. We asked anyone who had ever served in the military to raise their hands so we could thank them. We also asked any who had a close family member or friend in the military to raise their hands. You might consider singing the national anthem or otherwise setting the tone for a patriotic event.
If you have a large group, there is a job for everyone!
5a. Separate items for the care package into categories (e.g. food, toiletries, etc.), so you know what you have.
As people arrived, we asked them to place their items on the collection table. It was helpful for us to have a few volunteers (4-5) separate these items, while the others in the group enjoyed a time of fellowship at the start of the event. The volunteers who are sorting the items need to know that all items meet the requirements of the USPS.
5b. Build your boxes
It was helpful for us to have a few volunteers (1-2) assemble the USPS boxes using the packing tape, while the others in the group enjoyed a time of fellowship at the start of the event.
5c. Complete Customs form.
It was helpful for us to have a few volunteers (3-4) study the US Customs form to ensure they would know how to complete it.
Provide these volunteers with a sample of a correctly completed form, including your return address information, so they can complete the forms to be included in each package.
5d. Write a thank you or encouragement note or letter to include in the package.
6. Seal the boxes.
7. Mail the boxes at your local Post Office.
We had a great turnout, and everyone contributed!