The holiday time can be a difficult time for military families. It can be a time spent apart from families due to deployment. Even when the military service member is stateside, it doesn’t mean families can travel back home as it can be expensive, and use precious leave. In 2020, traveling is not recommended due to the requirement of quarantine prior to travel and returning home. Creating that sense of holiday in any year can be emotionally taxing, and in 2020 it is even more so. There are many organizations that plan throughout the year to support military families, and this year is no different. If your family or someone you know would love a tree, food, or holiday spirit, check out these organizations.
Trees for Troops has been operating for over 15 years delivering live Christmas trees to military bases across the United States for military families to pick up for FREE. All the trees are donated by farms, nurseries, or individuals across America who want to demonstrate their support of military families with this gift of appreciation. The organization is planning delivery to 79 bases from November 30th to December 11th. Check to see if your base is on the list here.
The tradition of a holiday meal in November and December is a common practice across America. For some military families, the expense of such a large meal is not something that can be accommodated in the budget. And quite honestly, if a military family is going through a deployment during the holidays it is emotionally taxing as well. Through partnerships with local businesses, Operation Homefront has been able to provide Holiday Meals for military families. Meal pick-up times and locations are pre-arranged and registration is required. Eligibility is extended for E1-E6 active duty military families and post 9-11 wounded, ill, or injured service members of any rank even if no longer serving on active duty. Registration is open by searching for the location nearest you here.
The Armed Services YMCA organization is committed to supporting active-duty military families throughout the year, and the holiday season is no different. Operation Holiday Joy provides food baskets to military families and toys to military children every year. Look up your local branch for registration details and pick up times.
If you want to donate to the program, they are always accepting donations here.
A part of the Operation Help a Hero program in California, Operation Christmas Spirit adopts military families to provide them gifts for Christmas. The entire family is adopted and through donations provided toys, gas and grocery gift cards, and much more. The goal of the organization is to provide support to any active duty military family who is concerned about providing Christmas presents to their children.
If you are an active duty or Gold Star family in need of assistance or know someone who is, click this link here. While some locations are full, many locations are not. To be an eligible active-duty family, families must be E5 or below, any rank with 4+ children, any rank with a justification of a need, or families with a legitimate need for assistance. Gold Star families with children age 17 and under, Gold Star spouses, or guardians of Gold Star children are eligible to apply.
Full Circle Home is an organization that helps deployed troops send reminders of their love home to their loved ones. Since the organization’s start in 2007, Full Circle Home has helped over 21,000 troops send holiday wishes to their family members at home. Being the military family member at home during the holidays is emotionally and mentally challenging, and this year it is even more so. If you are a deployed service member and want to send a gift home, sign up here to complete the registration form. Currently, gifts sent are for adult women only – so military members can send gifts to their mother, adult female family member, or spouse. The gifts are chosen for the service member and the service member writes a love note on the registration form.
If you know someone who wants to donate to help with this mission, check out the donate page here.
Soldiers Angels’ Adopt a Family program is open for families of deployed service members, post 9-11 wounded, ill, or injured service members and veterans and their families or veteran families enrolled in the HUD/VASH program. The deployed service member must be E1-E6 rank, not be scheduled to return from deployment prior to December 25th, and must demonstrate financial need. Further details on eligibility read here. To register to be adopted, click here. If adopted, the team will ask for details of what is on the children’s wish list to provide gifts for the children and the grocery store for a grocery gift card.
If you know someone who wants to donate to help support the Adopt A Family program, the volunteer time link is here.
Saturday, December 19th is National Wreaths Across America this year. Meaning, you can sign up to volunteer at any of the 2100 cemeteries for wreath-laying across the United States and abroad. This amazing effort to let no fallen service member be forgotten cannot be completed without donated time, funds, and sponsored wreaths. You can sponsor a hand-crafted all-American balsam wreath to be laid at this event in honor of a family member or friend. In addition to sponsorship, wreaths can be purchased as gifts with service-specific flags on them. For every wreath purchased, a wreath is sponsored. The non-profit runs with a small staff, and thousands of volunteers every year. The volunteer number often grows to the millions on the wreath-laying day. While initially the wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery was canceled, there is still a plan for the wreath-laying to occur on the 19th in person with a small group and will be streamed virtually.
The U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots program provides new, unwrapped toys to children in need. The deadline to request a toy varies per the location so make sure to click the link to learn more about the Toys for Tots Campaign nearest you.
Donations of toys can be completed in person at drop off locations or online with their virtual drop box.
Since 1941, the USO has been supporting service members as they prepare for deployment and while serving overseas. The organization continues support overseas by bringing holiday meals to those deployed or living overseas, and they also provide Turkeys for Troops or holidays meals at each of their 250+ locations worldwide. Check your local USO to see what programs they are providing this holiday season.
The holiday season can be a difficult period in a normal year for those military family members deployed or far from family. It can be an expensive time of year that challenges the family finances and these organizations desire to demonstrate support and care to military families during this time of year. Share with anyone you know who would be interested in learning or sharing these programs!