by Melissa LaScaleia
Every December, American Red Cross teams up with other non-profits to assist in sending care packages to our military troops stationed overseas. The arm of the Red Cross responsible for this is the Service to the Armed Forces division, or SAF.
Karen Levinson is the team leader for the local Myrtle Beach division; she’s been with the Red Cross for the past three years.
“Every November we start planning our Holiday Cards for Heroes campaign,” she says. “We work in conjunction with the Blue Star Mothers which a nationwide non-profit organization of mothers whose children are currently serving in the military. They are absolutely wonderful, they do so much.”
The Blue Star Mothers have access to the mailing addresses of deployed troops, and collect donations to compile and send care packages and gift boxes filled with treats designed to warm the hearts of soldiers abroad. Things like chocolate, chips, and other non-perishable goodies, books, magazines, and other creature comforts of home.
The Red Cross collects handmade cards to include as part of the care packages. They attend events like bazaars and frequent busy shopping areas like Broadway at the Beach, soliciting passersby to use their artistic talents to make a holiday card for a service member on the spot. Children and adults alike participate in the activity.
“It’s great for building community, it’s really sweet,” Karen says.
The Holiday Cards for Heroes Campaign fosters a sense of connection as it brings people together to join in a common cause.
Another event the Red Cross is participating in this holiday season is called Wreaths Across America, also in partnership with the Blue Star Mothers.
The nationwide campaign collects donations to buy wreaths to put on the gravesites of soldiers during the holiday season.
“It’s the first year we’ll be actively participating with them for this. We will help to lay the wreaths at the gravesites for our local division,” Karen says.
“I have never served in the military,” she adds. “And this is my way of expressing gratitude to those who have, and showing appreciation for them. We have many former military servicemen on our team. They appreciated what was done for them when they were in the service, and they want to give back, through working with us on this, as well as our other community projects.”