Thursday, September 29, 2016

Looking back...

When we began Operation Touch of Home (OTOH) in 2007, we had no idea that we'd still be at it nine years later. Our first—and what we thought would be our only—care packaging event took place in November 2007. We simply wished to show our support for soldiers stationed overseas during the holiday season. Our expectations did not go beyond gathering the community for one event to send much-needed supplies and well wishes to our deployed soldiers. Yet after we saw how successful it was, we decided to continue our efforts.

For the next eight years, we held bi-annual events to show the soldiers that they had not been forgotten. As the number of deployed soldiers has decreased over the years, we've found it more and more difficult to gather names and addresses of those still overseas. This was one of the reason that we decided to not hold an event in spring 2016and this is the main reason why OTOH will be on hiatus after our event in November.

We have made some wonderful relationships over the years and have been able to touch countless lives, including those of soldiers and their families. It can make a world of difference to know that someone out there is cheering for you, even if that person is a perfect stranger. We hope that our efforts will cause a ripple effect of small acts of kindness throughout our community.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Do you know what time it is??

As the fall season settles in, the time has arrived for us to begin preparations for our 17th care packaging event.  It feels like just yesterday that we were first setting out on our mission of bringing a "touch of home" to deployed soldiers. 
Photo from our third care packaging event (11/2008)

Yet that was eight years ago.  We've found that support for our efforts has fluctuated over the years; often depending on what's being reported in the news at that time.  Some people have even suggested that we stop our efforts since a majority of troops have returned home.  Nevertheless, we continue to hear from soldiers time and time again how much the care packages mean to them.  One recipient recently wrote, "No matter how big or small the care package, it affects us in a huge way.  These packages represent love and support.  Sometimes that is all we need over here.  The packages make our lives and morale so much better while deployed and help us get that much closer to coming home."  And with that, how can we not continue our efforts?
Photo from our most recent care packaging event (6/2015)

Please join us on Sunday, November 1st as we show the soldiers deployed overseas that they have not been forgotten.  If you can't make it to the actual day of the event, there are still many other ways we could use your help beforehand.  Contact us at to learn more!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Making New Friends

Along our path of working to show support for soldiers overseas, we've met some amazing people.  Some folks have had loved ones deployed overseas while others have had no personal connection but simply wanted to help.  We've even been fortunate enough to meet a couple of the soldiers who have received our care packages and returned home safely.  Over time, we've made some wonderful and unexpected friends.

While beginning to plan for our next care packaging event this spring, we were approached by a fellow veterans' advocate, Rob Wilson at the Veterans Education Project in Amherst, MA.  He had been in touch with Jennifer Zazo  at the Springfield Armory regarding an outreach project for the High School of Commerce students.  Rob and Jennifer thought Operation Touch of Home would be a great match for the Commerce students to show their support for deployed service members.  We quickly agreed!  Although our spring event is typically held in April or May at the Community Church of North Orange & Tully, we've decided to hold this event on June 6, 2015 at the Springfield Armory.  Our wish is that our old friends, new friends and yet-to-be friends will join us in June to shower the soldiers with an overwhelming amount of support and encouragement!

We're very excited for this new partnership and hope you can join us!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A brand new year, the same ol' mission...

We started Operation Touch of Home in 2007 to show deployed soldiers that they had our support back home.  On November 8, 2014, we held our 15th care packaging event.  When we first began OTOH, we never imagined what it would grow into so many years later.  Our original vision was to hold one care packaging event as a community service project for the North Orange Grange.  Yet we were astounded by the response and support from the community.  People came from far and wide to help us at that first event.  After that, we decided to continue our efforts.  We've since sent more than 700 care packages to soldiers stationed overseas.  As the numbers of deployed soldiers has waxed and waned, we've noticed the amount of addresses we receive has decreased dramatically most recently.  This has made our attempts to provide these brave men and women with a "touch of home" much more difficult.  We can't rely on Veterans' Agents for addresses due to confidentiality restrictions.  Attempts to connect with Family Readiness Groups have unfortunately been unsuccessful.  Thus far, we've found the best way for us to obtain names and addresses of soldiers overseas is by word of mouth.  That being said, our next care packaging event will be held in May 2015.  It may seem too early, but now is the best time to start asking those you know if there are any soldiers in their lives who would welcome a "touch of home".  Missy Elumba of CineMEumba Productions created a wonderful video about our operation and the work that we do.  We're simply a small group of people trying to show deployed soldiers that they have not been forgotten.  Help us do what we can!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Save the date!

It's hard to believe how much time has passed since our last care packaging event in May....and even harder to believe that we're already preparing for our next one on Saturday, November 8th!  You've heard the drill many times before--we need YOUR help in order to make this another successful event.  There's a variety of ways that you can become involved.  First, help us by simply telling others about our care packaging event.  Hang up event posters in your area.  Share the event on Facebook.  Talk to your coworkers, neighbors and the cashier at the grocery store.  Second, when talking to these fine folks, ask if they know any soldiers stationed overseas.  We're having extreme difficulty lately gathering names and addressed of deployed soldiers.  Due to confidentiality limitations, we can't turn to Veterans' Agents for this information.  Instead, we rely on family and friends to refer a soldier.  (Hint: That's where you come in!)  Third, we can always use supplies to fill the care packages and monetary donations to help with the cost of postage.  
And finally, we always have a need for volunteers on the actual day of our care packaging event.   Above is a photo from our last care packaging event in May with some of our dedicated volunteers.  We can honestly say that it wouldn't be possible without them.  Let us know if you'd like to be one of them on Saturday, November 8th!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Six degrees of separation...?

Have you heard the theory about six degrees of separation?  It's basically a concept that "everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world".  So where are we going with this?  To make a long story short, we've recently had great difficulty gathering names of soldiers overseas to send care packages.  We must rely on family and friends of these soldiers to provide us with the addresses.  Yet as the number of deployed soldiers has slowly decreased, so has the number of address referrals OTOH receives.  While it's comforting to know that this means countless soldiers are now home with their loved ones, we know that there are still many more stationed overseas.  In order to show our continued support for these brave men and women, we need your help!

Ask your friends, neighbors and coworkers to see if they know of a soldier stationed overseas that would appreciate a care package.  The point is that you never know who you might be connected to in the world.  One small act of passing this information along to others could help to show a soldier overseas that he or she is not forgotten.  And that, my friend, is priceless.

Care packages at a prior event preparing to be sent to soldiers overseas.
*Please note that our next care packaging event is on Saturday, May 10th and we need addresses by Saturday, May 3rd in order to prepare custom forms, paperwork, etc. beforehand.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A "touch of home" in each care package!

Earlier this month we prepared 30 care packages for soldiers overseas!  Volunteers helped to fill each care package with plenty of goodies including snacks, magazines and toiletries.  Each package also included creative works of art made by students at Swift River School in New Salem, MA.

Artwork and letters for the soldiers.
Placements crafted by students.

The school has been involved with OTOH since we began our efforts in 2007.  Many times, soldiers tell us how much these seemingly simple additions to the care packages mean to them.  It's things like this that help us to show soldiers that they are not forgotten.  A little "touch of home" truly can go a long way!