Hi, everyone, I am Katie- the founder of All For Helping!
I started All For Helping in 2010 without an official title or goal. I just had the drive to help others and show appreciation for the troops, while teaching my children how important community service is. So we sent care packages, started to feed the homeless, and volunteered some hours at a local food pantry. I wanted to teach them how amazing it feels to help others without expecting something in return, simply because we are able to do so, and that we want to!
So we hit the road to explore- literally! We packed the car and planned to spend the summer traveling from New Jersey to CA and back while traveling everywhere in between. It became a game to see if we could spend less traveling than we could if we stayed home and went to summer camps. We won the game, but we only made it as far west as New Mexico. (oh well, we'd just have to try again the next summer, and we did)
Our goal was to visit history, science, and art museums, national monuments, zoos,and parks, while trying to do good along the way. Every homeless person we passed driving, my kids wanted me to give them money. So instead we compromised and created care bags to hand out with snacks and drinks and basic toiletries we had from our many hotel stays.
Plus every soldier we came across, my children shook their hands and asked for pictures. The most memorable was at the Alamo. Luck so had it that the day we were there, an induction ceremony took place hosting all the various divisions of the military. My youngest was so excited he didn't know who to approach first. He reacted like most people do when they see a celebrity, asking for their autograph and their picture!
It was was awesome- everyone that he approached was extremely friendly and took the time for him.
After returning home from such a memorable trip, we took another trip to see Carrie Underwood in Ohio. It was a girls trip with my daughter, my niece, my sister in law, and my mother. This one trip proved to be so life changing. Nothing traumatic happened. The hotel we stayed at was amazing and comfortable, the concert was out of this world, but there was something. Every time we would be outside of the room, we would see groups of young men, in the elevators, in the halls, and in the restaurant. Or parents with a just turned adult child checking into the hotel. Nothing out of the ordinary you would think, but there was something going on. Of course I had to ask....
My intuition proved correct. All the faces and groups that were everywhere, were all faces about to be deployed the next morning! Each one I saw, I had to ask what there plans were or how their day was going to see how many I met were really being deployed. About 85% of them were. I wanted to hug each one and give them all my address to write me upon their arrival so I could send something.
But I didn't. I smiled and chatted with all that I encountered, but that was it. I regretted not hugging them , or shaking their hand, or giving them contact information for support. I regretted it , I regretted it, and I regretted it some more! I felt I was given an opportunity to help and I wasn't prepared. I didn't even have a business card to hand out.
In the face of that weekend, upon returning home, my closest brother Eric was scheduled to be deployed. Holy toledo, when I say that weekend was a life changer. It hit home. I never gave a thought to my brother joining the coast guard. My oldest brother and sister were in the army, so what's the big deal?
That's how I thought of it. I didn't take into account the way my parents viewed it, the emotions they were going through. Or even what my sister in law and her children were going through. None of those obvious emotional roller coasters played any part of my world, until that weekend. Then I felt sorrow for my sister in law and my niece and nephews- how would they deal with him being away during the holidays?
I felt that if I sent care packages to all the soldiers that are able to receive them, it would make up for not seizing the opportunity in Ohio. So again, another factor in why I do this.
When the holidays came around that year, my kids asked if we could send them all something. All their "new friends", aka soldiers, that they met over the summer needed presents. Well we never got their addresses, so I did research and found an amazing website ...www.anysoldier.com.
We were able to send care packages- 177 of them. We asked family and friends to get involved.
The following summer we again traveled, this time making it all the way to the Pacific Coast! Our plans were a little more concrete for assembling care bags for the homeless though. With better preperation we were able to feed many more.
For the soldiers who cross our paths, we now have cards to hand out to every one of them we meet. In hopes they will write us when they arrive at their deployment, so we can send them stuff.
I mentioned earlier that when I was younger my oldest brother and sister left home to serve in the army. I was so young at the time, I just remember them not being around much. My sister did her time then got out, but my brother stayed in. He was deployed in Desert Storm. I was in sixth grade. I made a banner to show support and hung it from my parents front porch. I was so proud. I sent numerous care packages and letters and invited my school mates to get involved too. After that my brother moved to Texas so I rarely saw him, and my sister moved all over to explore. I never gave it much thought about how them being in the military had an effect on me. Clearly it was a good one, look at all the soldiers now receiving care packages through Operation: Send Some Cheer.
This past November of 2011 is when we as a family decided to open our efforts up to the community and invite them to join us. The thought of inviting others to create care packages to send to the troops was so invigorating. All I could think of was how many more would be able to be created and sent- think of all those warm wishes. That's how Operation: Send Some Cheer was born. Every care package created was equated with "sending some cheer", every one included a hug from home. With much labor and support form community businesses and the local mall, it was a huge success.
We sent almost 800 care packages in just 2 short weeks.
So All For Helping was officially created with a title to serve as a platform for helping others. My hope is that visitors are inspired to help others too. Whether it's becoming involved with us, volunteering at a local organization, or even just offering smiles to passers by. We all play a vital role in society- why not let it be an enjoyable one.
I always say "why get upset- when you can get involved"
(it's the title of one of my favorite songs)!!
Thanks so much for taking the time to read my lengthy tale. If you're ever nearby feel free to visit, send your comments, contact me, send soldier addresses, ideas, and thoughts, I'd love to hear every one.
Many Warm Wishes,