The holiday season poses unique needs for military service members and veterans.
Some ways of showing your support are as simple as sending a card to a deployed soldier, inviting a veteran over for a holiday meal, or shopping at a veteran-owned business.
Some needs are greater than others. Roughly 33,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. Up to 1 in 6 veterans face food insecurity, and as many as 160,000 active-duty military members and their families didn’t have access to enough food last year.
In this article, you’ll find a list of opportunities for you to donate, volunteer, and support veterans during the holidays.
How to donate safely
Before you donate, we offer a word of caution: always stay skeptical when considering a donation to any organization. Scammers often exploit our appreciation for people who serve in the military and collect “donations” that are never sent to service members or veterans. The AARP offers some good advice about how to recognize veteran charity scams.
If you are unfamiliar with a charity organization, you can use Charity Navigator, check the IRS tax-exempt status, or look it up on Better Business Bureau’s Give.org. We have used these tools in our research for this article, but we suggest you do your own investigating, too.
Now for the best part: giving!
Stuff a stocking
Holiday Stockings for Heroes is a donation drive created by Soldiers’ Angels. Anyone can participate. All you have to do is collect items from the list of suggested items, put them into a holiday stocking, and send it to Soldiers’ Angels. You can also include a personal card or letter with your festive gift. To participate this year, you must send in your stocking to the address provided to you by Dec. 9, 2022.
Adopt a veteran or veteran’s family
Soldiers’ Angels also has an adopt a veteran or veteran’s family program. Military and veteran families can register for support through Dec. 6, 2022, and volunteers, businesses, and organizations can register to adopt a family through Dec. 22, 2022.
If you adopt a family as an individual, you must first join Soldiers’ Angels as a Team Angel. If your business or organization adopts a family, you must join Soldiers’ Angels as a Business Angel. After completing a registration form, you can select a family or families to adopt and view their wishlist. Then the shopping for gifts begins – just be sure to mail them in time for Christmas!
Donate to a veterans charity
Many charities advocate for veterans. Some well-known veteran charities include:
- National Veterans Foundation
- Semper Fi & America’s Fund
- Honor Flight Network
- Blue Star Families
- Folds of Honor
- Operation Second Chance
- Freedom Service Dogs of America
- Spirit of America
- Gary Sinise Foundation
The list of charities could go on, but the organizations listed above (including Soldiers’ Angels mentioned elsewhere in this article) are among those with a four-star “give with confidence” rating on the Charity Navigator index.
Send a card or letter
The simple act of mailing a heartfelt card or a handmade letter to a veteran or military service member is appreciated more than you know. Veterans and military service members always welcome cards and letters, but receiving them during the holidays is extra special.
You can participate in the Military Card Challenge, which has delivered more than half a million holiday cards. You can also send Hanukkah cards through The Jewish Soldiers Project. If you would like to send cards, you can email [email protected] for details.
If you need a little joy right now (and who doesn’t?), click the links above for photos that show what a difference a holiday card can make in a veteran’s life.
2022 Mailing deadlines to send cards
To make sure your Christmas card reaches a veteran or military member in time, the military mailing deadlines for USPS are as follows:
- Dec. 9, 2022, is the deadline for First-Class Mail and Priority Mail.
- Dec. 16, 2022, is the deadline for Priority Mail Express Military Service (PMEMS).
Support food drives
Several programs around the country are working to provide food for veterans and military service members.
Volunteer to feed veterans
In addition to the Soldiers’ Angels activities previously mentioned, the group also offers a monthly food distribution called Volunteer to Feed Veterans. It helps thousands of low-income, at-risk, and homeless veterans in these six cities in the U.S.:
- Atlanta, Georgia
- Charleston, South Carolina
- Denver, Colorado
- Detroit, Michigan
- Orlando, Florida
- San Antonio, Texas
If you live in or near one of these cities, you can register to volunteer for a hands-on opportunity to impact veterans.
Feeding America partnership with the VA
Feeding America began a partnership with the VA in 2017 called the Veterans Pantry Pilot (VPP) program. Local food banks partner with VA Medical Centers to either establish pantries onsite or to coordinate mobile pantry distributions.
Some current active VPP partnerships include:
- Beckley, West Virginia: Mountaineer Food Bank and Beckley VA Medical Center
- Cincinnati, Ohio: Freestore Food Bank and Cincinnati VA Medical Center
- Columbia, South Carolina: Harvest Hope Food Bank and William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center
- Dublin, Georgia: Middle Georgia Community Food Bank and Carl Vinson VA Medical Center
- Spokane, Washington: Second Harvest Inland Northwest and Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center
- Temple, Texas: Central Texas Food Bank and Central Texas VA Health Care System
You can check with your local VA facility to see if they participate in the program.
Kosher Troops Virtual Food Drive
Kosher Troops has shipped more than 87,000 packages of kosher food and holiday gift baskets to service members stationed around the world since 2008. You can donate $15 to send donuts or Hanukkah gelt through the Virtual Food Drive. The group also organizes food drives for Shavuot, Purim, and Passover.
Volunteer with a veterans organization
Operation Christmas Spirit is an annual project started nearly two decades ago that supports military families and service members through morale-boosting events during the holiday season. There are multiple ways to participate in the Operation Christmas Spirit Program. You could:
- Host an Angel Tree
- Collect gift cards
- Donate online
- Host a toy drive
- Give gifts for single service members
- Donate e-Gift cards through email
- Explore the Operation Help a Hero Amazon Wishlist
- When this article was published, Operation Christmas Spirit was no longer taking requests to “adopt” a family but instructed visitors to check back if interested. It might be one put on your list for an earlier start next year!
The Christmas Spirit Foundation’s annual Trees for Troops provides free, farm-grown Christmas trees to U.S. service members in all branches of the military. The program relies on donations, sponsorships, grants, and the work of many volunteers. You can donate a tree, funds, or your time to Trees for Troops.
The American Red Cross volunteers to help in military and veteran health care facilities across the nation and around the world. They continue to support military families during and after service. You can sign up to be a Red Cross volunteer and join the network of more than 14,000 volunteers to give support and critical services to veterans and active service members.
You can also join the VA’s Volunteer Transportation Network (VTN), which provides transportation for veterans seeking services from a VA facility or authorized facility. To be a VTN volunteer, you just need to complete and submit the form on the VA’s volunteer page.
Support veteran-owned businesses
The holiday season is a great time to support small, veteran-owned businesses. Many are still struggling from the COVID-19 pandemic and need our support more than ever to stay in business.
The Ultimate Veteran-Owned Business 2022 Gift Guide is a great place to start. The article suggests online shops that sell clothing, coffee, items for the home, toys, and more.
Donate to a VA facility
Donations made directly to the VA are used to help inpatient, outpatient, and homeless veterans and their caregivers who are treated in VA facilities. Donors can support the general fund, which allows facilities to use donations wherever the greatest need is, or can donate to a specific program such as transportation services, residential care units, and special events.
Donations are accepted online (minimum of $5) and in-person. Just provide your name, address, and donation amount. Identify which program (general or specific) you want to contribute to and if you are donating in honor or memory of someone.
Reach out to veterans in your life
Chances are you know a veteran. Whether it’s a family member, friend, coworker, or neighbor, telling them you care about them can uplift their spirits more than you think. You can send a card, meet them for coffee, or invite them to your holiday gatherings. How you decide to reach out isn’t as important as the decision to do so.
Happy Holidays from Woods and Woods
If you don’t personally know a veteran but want to help, we hope we’ve given you some guidance on how to express your gratitude or send a little holiday cheer to those who serve and have served.
There are many more veteran-owned businesses and veterans charities than we can cover in a single article. If you come across businesses or charities that benefit veterans that are not on our list, do your research to make sure you are donating your money wisely. We hope our list will help you find a way to support veterans during this holiday season.
Everyone at Woods and Woods wishes all of you a happy, healthy, and warm holiday season!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Be skeptical when considering a donation to any organization. If you are unfamiliar with a charity organization you can use Charity Navigator, check the IRS tax-exempt status, and look it up through the Better Business Bureau’s Give.org. The AARP also offers some good advice about how to recognize veteran charity scams.
A simple gesture goes a long way. Reach out to veterans you know by sending a card, calling, or inviting them for a meal. If you don’t know any veterans, several charities organize card-writing campaigns, adopt-a-military-family programs, or food drives. Be sure to do some research before donating to any charity.
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