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 veteran-owned businesses.
Some needs are greater than others. Roughly 131,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. Up to 24% of veterans face food insecurity, and as many as 160,000 active-duty military members and their families don’t have access to enough food.
In this article, you’ll find a list of opportunities for you to donate and volunteer this holiday season.
In this article about supporting veterans
- How to Donate Safely
- Stuff a Stocking
- Adopt a Veteran or Veteran’s Family
- Donate to a Veterans Charity
- Send a Card or Letter
- Support Food Drives
- Donate to a VA Facility
- Volunteer with a Veterans Organization
- Support Veteran-Owned Businesses
- Reach Out to Veterans in Your Life
- Happy Holidays from Woods and Woods
How to Donate Safely
Before you donate, we want to 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, and look it up through the 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.
So, now let’s get to 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.
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, and volunteers, businesses, and organizations can register to adopt a family.
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 comes the fun part–shopping for gifts and mailing them in time for Christmas.
Donate to a Veterans Charity
Many charities advocate for veterans. Some other well-known veteran charities include:
- National Veterans Foundation
- Semper Fi and 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 the ones that have 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 or a group of people 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.
2021 Mailing Deadlines for Active-Duty Military
To make sure your Christmas card reaches an active-duty military member in time, the mailing deadlines for USPS are as follows:
- Dec. 9, 2021, is the deadline for Priority Mail and First-Class Mail letters and cards.
- Dec. 16, 2021, 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 already 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
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.
There are currently ten active VPP sites:
- Columbia, South Carolina: Harvest Hope Food Bank and William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center
- Leavenworth, Kansas: Second Harvest Community Food Bank and Dwight D. Eisenhower Virginia Medical Center
- Beckley, West Virginia: Mountaineer Food Bank and Beckley VA Medical Center
- Cincinnati, Ohio: Freestore Food Bank and Cincinnati VA Medical Center
- Spokane, Washington: Second Harvest Inland Northwest and Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center
- Charleston, South Carolina: Lowcountry Food Bank and Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
- Dublin, Georgia: Middle Georgia Community Food Bank and Carl Vinson VA Medical Center
- Martinsburg, West Virginia: Mountaineer Food Bank and Martinsburg VA Medical Center
- Orlando, Florida: Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida and Orlando VA Medical Center
- Temple, Texas: Central Texas Food Bank and Central Texas VA Health Care System
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.
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.
Volunteer with a Veterans Organization
Operation Christmas Spirit is an annual project started 18 years ago that supports military families and service members through morale-boosting events during the holiday season. There are multiple ways to help through the Operation Christmas Spirit Program. You could:
- “Adopt” a family
- 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
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 helps military and veteran families by volunteering 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 join the VA’s Volunteer Transportation Network (VTN), which provides transportation for veterans seeking services from a VA facility and/or authorized facility. To be a VTN volunteer, you just need to complete and submit the form on the VA’s volunteer or donate page.
Support Veteran-Owned Businesses
The holiday season is a great time to support small, veteran-owned businesses, which were hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic. They need our support more than ever to stay in business.
The Ultimate Veteran-Owned Business 2021 Gift-Giving Guide is a great place to start. The article suggests online shops that sell clothing and accessories, fitness and outdoor gear, and food and specialty beverages.
Reach Out to Veterans in Your Life
Chances are you know a veteran. Whether it’s your dad, your aunt, or your friend, 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 reach out.
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 and to send some 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 spending your money wisely and support them if you can.
Everyone at Woods and Woods wishes all of you a happy and healthy 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-familiy programs, or food drives. Be sure to do some research before donating to any charity.
This firm has been excellent at obtaining my disability claim. I now am 100% service connected. No complaints. Thanks to Woods and Woods. I will recommend them for anyone trying to obtain service connected disability.–L.T. Google review