For the last 10 years, Holiday for Heroes has been a cherished campaign in Florida’s Southern Gulf Chapter where the community is invited to donate items for care packages and send cards with messages of thanks to military members. This year, for the first time, the campaign expanded to the entire South Florida Region giving us all a chance to express gratitude to military members abroad and spread cheer to veterans in local veteran hospitals.
Under the guidance of lead volunteers Helga Schoennagel and DJ Johnson-Hubbard, who have been sewing thousands of stockings every year, Red Cross volunteers will sew the stockings to stuff. The Red Cross and individuals will host card-making and stocking stuffing parties where families, friends or co-workers can come together to decorate cards and express their support to soldiers and veterans.
“Holiday for Heroes gives the community the opportunity to express their support and love and how much they care about soldiers and veterans,” says DJ. There are a lot of veterans in South Florida; many of them are homeless or they may be last person alive in their families; there are lots of seniors with no one to care for them. This campaign makes our community aware of them and then they do things for them when they see them. It inspires random acts of kindness and that’s what we want to see.”
You can help by donating items for the stockings and asking friends and family to donate; asking your church, civic group or business to host a collection box and/or a card-making party; or if you are having a meeting or event, ask the attendees to bring a donation and/or set aside some time to make cards together.
This year, the Red Cross will once again partner with Arthrex, Inc. at their headquarters in Naples, Fla. where Arthrex employees and Red Cross volunteers will assemble stockings and prepare boxes that Arthrex ships overseas. In addition, Red Cross volunteers will be visiting with veterans at VA hospitals and centers throughout the region to show our care and to hand-deliver these stockings – a small gesture of thanks from a grateful community.
Last year the Red Cross and Arthrex assembled more than 1,000 stockings that were delivered to troops overseas. The chapter received a letter of thanks from Cassandra Wyatt, the station manager at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, expressing how grateful they were for the stockings and what this small gift meant to our service men and women.
“Many service members do not have an extended family to obtain comfort items, have someone who cares, or share a little bit of home. The support of the American people is vital. Your support is crucial to the service members and their families, to let them know that they matter to the citizens and we appreciate their sacrifice.”
Visit redcross.org/HolidayforHeroes for a full list of donation items and drop-off locations.