Jericho High School students recently set aside some time to send gifts of love and appreciation to the country’s men and women in uniform. The message was simple: no matter where they may be stationed around the world, there are people at home thinking of the armed forces each and every day that they’re out bravely defending the nation’s freedoms.
Operation Gratitude annually sends out more than 150,000 care packages to new recruits, veterans, first responders, wounded warriors, caregivers and U.S. service members deployed overseas. To Jericho Library young adult services librarian Gina Patronaggio, it was the perfect program to get involved in when approached by local high school students looking to do some community service.
“We recently received many requests from teens to participate in community service opportunities in exchange for community service credit for school,” she said. “Operation Gratitude was a wonderful way for teens to take an active part in giving back to the men and women who proudly serve our country. I hope when these care packages reach their final destination, they will bring joy to all those men and women who worked tirelessly to defend our country and keep us safe.”
Students attended several sessions at the library to set up the items that would eventually be packed into boxes for the soldiers. On Nov. 25, the students met one last time and were split up into teams, with each being responsible for packing and sealing an individual cardboard box that they had loaded up with a number of necessities—snack, candy, puzzles, warm socks, bandanas and hygiene items such as toothbrushes and deodorant.
Lauran Guo, 13, first got involved to satisfy her community service requirements at school. However, once she became immersed in the project and got a real feel for what she was doing, she said that the importance of Operation Gratitude really hit home.
“I come to the library a lot and I sign up for many of the programs here. I thought this was really nice for the soldiers, so I decided to sign up and help out,” she said. “When we started making the Paracord bracelets I felt really connected and personal, because these are real people we’re doing this for and I really respect what they’re doing.”
But Twix bars and Sudoku books weren’t all that went into each box. Giving each package a creative touch were student-made Paracord bracelets—a snazzy wearable trinket fashioned out of parachute cord and adorned with a clasp—that the soldiers could not only wear, but also disassemble and use as a survival tool when in a bind as well.
Aside from all of those great things, each care package also contained perhaps the most heart-warming gift of all—a letter composed by a Jericho student. Fourteen-year-old Angela Chen said that she shared a personal story about herself as a way of providing a sincere “thank you” to the solider receiving her care package for their selfless service in defense of the United States.
“They do so much to help and protect us, so I wanted to do something to give back to them and to let them know how much they mean to us,” she said. “I talked about my life and something I had to make a big decision for and I spoke about how menial it was compared to what they had done for us and the decisions they must make on a daily basis. I really wanted them to know that we don’t take them for granted.”
After mailed out from the Jericho Library, the Operation Gratitude care packages will be send to a facility in California. From there, the packages will be distributed to troops stationed home and abroad, and each man or woman who receives them will find a little piece of home inside, reminding them that they are indeed our heroes.
To find out more, visit www.operationgratitude.com.