Operation Gratitude Introduces “Battalion Buddies”

Having already shipped more than 600,000 care packages to service men and women deployed in combat zones, Operation Gratitude is pleased to announce the launch of “Battalion Buddies” — a new program designed to serve and encourage the young children of deploying troops.

In cooperation with Family Readiness Officers and battalion leaders nationwide, Operation Gratitude will begin providing special stuffed toys – known as Battalion Buddies – to the sons and daughters of U.S. military personnel as their units prepare to deploy.

“Our hope is these gifts will offer some degree of comfort to children while their moms and dads are far away, serving their country,” explained Operation Gratitude founder, Carolyn Blashek.  “We want the children to know that they too have caring friends across the country who are aware of their sacrifices and send their appreciation.”

Aided by an initial donation of 28,000 stuffed toys hand-made by employees of the McKesson Corporation, and a follow-up donation of the cards by Tobu Print Group, Operation Gratitude was inspired to provide Battalion Buddies by the Commanding Officer of the National Guard armory in which the group operates.  LTC Angel Ortiz, seeing the McKesson stuffed animals during a recent Care Package Assembly, asked whether Operation Gratitude could donate some for his units that would soon deploy.

“I realized these cuddly animals would be a perfect item for the children to hug as they were about to say ‘Good-bye’ to their parent,” said LTC Ortiz.  “In addition, the animals would be a beautiful gift from the American people to say ‘Thank You’ to the military children who serve our nation in their own special and courageous way.”

As with its Care Packages to deployed troops, Operation Gratitude’s Battalion Buddies program will provide every American opportunities to encourage the children of troops serving in combat by making financial donations to purchase and ship Battalion Buddies.

Donations can be made online here: Donate to Battalion Buddies or by check made payable and addressed to:

Operation Gratitude
16444 Refugio Road
Encino, CA 91436

Corporate Donors should contact Carolyn Blashek at regarding sponsorship opportunities.

Military Mom Talk Radio is co-hosted by Sandra Beck and Robin Boyd, hosted by Toginet Radio and powered by Motherhood Incorporated. Military Mom Talk Radio supports and helps bring information to the families, moms and wives of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard and is dedicated to serving our friends and family in the Armed Service. We are proud supporters and members of the Military Writers Society of America as well as proud supporters of Operation Gratitude, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Shining Service Worldwide, Fisher House and the Girl Scouts of the USA and Boy Scouts of America.

Operation Gratitude Shares the Loss of Joan Mazzarelli

Joan Mezzarelli, Operation Gratitude, knitted scarves for troopsThere are many ways we here at home try to make a difference for our troops while they serve our country.  One woman in southern California has been dedicated to remembering the military in a very special way.  Our good friends at Operation Gratitude introduced the country to Joan Mazzarelli a few years ago, a woman who single handedly knitted an average of 500 scarves each year for Operation Gratitude to send to the military serving in Afghanistan.  You might say she’s experienced – she’s knitted for soldiers before… in World War 2.

Sadly, we’ve learned that Joan peacefully passed away last Saturday night in the arms of her daughter Paula Boland.  Joan graced this earth for exactly 99 years and 99 days. She will be sorely missed. 

Joan’s funeral will be Tuesday in Granada Hills but eulogies will be held Monday from 5-7pm.  We hope that everyone could take a moment and remember Joan and her family in thought and prayer at 5 oclock.

Founder Carolyn Blashak will be speaking during the funeral service on Tuesday on behalf of Operation Gratitude and all the military who have been blessed by Joan’s kindness . 

Joan’s family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Joan’s memory to Operation Gratitude.  Donations can be made here: Donate in Joan’s Memory or mailed to Operation Gratitude; 16444 Refugio Rd; Encino, CA 91436.  Please note the memorial with your donationn and a beautiful Tribute Letter will be sent to Joan’s family.

Please take a moment to learn more about this remarkable woman in this video from 2010:  .  May her spirit continue to warm the hearts of every soldier she so dearly cared for and dedicated her life to.  Thank you, Joan, and God bless.

Operation Gratitude Scheduling a “Labeling Day” February 11

From our friends at Operation Gratitude –

Operation Gratitude, Carolyn Blashek, care packages for the military, helping the military, sending things to soldiers, Sandra Beck, Tina Gonzales, Robin Boyd, Military Mom Talk Radio

Dear Volunteers,

WOW!! You assembled and shipped more than 45,000 Holiday care packages (including our 600,000th package), and assembled an additional 6,000+ packages which we will send out over the next three months as we receive requests. This was an enormously successful Holiday Drive!! My deepest thanks to each of you for your time, efforts and dedication.

I also want to add my gratitude to our Catering Supervisor, Marsha Roseman, her terrific team of kitchen volunteers, and our very generous Lunch Sponsors who kindly prepare and serve lunch to all of us on Assembly Days. I have listed and linked the Lunch Donors below and hope you will have the opportunity to express your appreciation to them.

We have set the dates for the 2011 Patriotic Drive–I have included the schedule below. Please mark your calendars now!! We will post the 2011 Holiday Drive Schedule in the Spring.

Always check emails, Twitter and our website for schedule change notifications!

We have a “Labeling Day” scheduled to label and custom form completed care packages:
Friday February 11, 2010 from 9-2
Please join us for any time you are available that day.

As in the past, we welcome children ages 12 and older to all activities at the Armory; those ages 12-16 must have a responsible adult with transportation on the premises. Due to insurance, liability and safety concerns, we must strictly adhere to these rules–there will be NO EXCEPTIONS. Younger children are encouraged to write letters and organize recycling drives from home.

Every Assembly Day, you hear me praise and thank our wonderful team of “Supervisors”, those “Hard Corps Volunteers in the Royal Blue Shirts,” who accept responsibility for specific areas of our operation. As Operation Gratitude continues to grow, we need and welcome more Supervisors! If you are interested and available, especially during the week, please email or call our Director of Operations, Charlie Othold: or 818-437-6201.

We have a special team of volunteers dedicated to reading and screening the personal letters submitted for the care packages. This is a critical task that requires careful attention, concentration and adherence to our strict content guidelines. If you are willing to read letters at home and/or at the armory, please contact Linda Barber at: or 818-996-3158. We have a mandatory meeting for all screeners at the Armory on February 11 (same day as labeling) at 12:00 Noon.

The Castaic Lake/Los Angeles Merrell Down & Dirty Mud Run will take place the night of Saturday April 16 (first ever Night Run) and the morning of Sunday April 17. We’d like a huge turn-out of “our family” to participate, volunteer and/or spectate this year. Stay tuned for exciting information about “Team Operation Gratitude!”

Again, many thanks for your phenomenal efforts in support of our troops. You truly made a difference in their lives during the Holiday season, as evidenced by the thousands of emails and letters we have received from our service members. Regularly check our Facebook Page and/or the Mail Call section of our site to read their very touching words and visit the Packages Arrive Photo Album to see their pictures and smiles. If you missed the news about the delivery of our 600,000th Care Package by the Commandant of the Marine Corps, click here: Special Delivery

All my best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year to you and your loved ones! I look forward to working with you this year.

Carolyn Blashek, president of Operation Gratitude

Many Thanks to Our Wonderful Lunch Sponsors:
Lancaster Rotary
Buca di Beppo
Jewel City Kiwanis Club
Maria’s Italian KItchen

Military Mom Talk Radio Hosted by Sandra Beck Welcomes Janine Wilburn of Touch-Nology, November 22

Touch-Nology, Janine Wilburn, Military Mom Talk Radio, Sandra Beck, Tina Gonzales, Pastor Dave Macer, Max Beck Levin, Hannah Holly, Motherhood Incorporated, Toginet.comIn 2005, Janine Wilburn co-founded and became the Chief Creative Officer of Touch.Nology Holdings LLC – a socially responsible, Communications Company committed to making a difference.
Touch-Nology manufactures patent-pending, Connection Kits and Products designed to bring Resiliency, connection, communication and healing to families in challenging situations.

Touch.Nology developed Kits to help Service Members and Military Families build Resiliency before, during and after deployment. The kits contain a number of different types of products—all designed to work together over time. To date, upwards of 170,000 Service Members and Military Families have received Kits and responded with very positive reviews. Hundreds and hundreds of heartfelt emails have poured in from Service Members in Iraq and Afghanistan and their Families here at home.

Janine’s first hand experience with the importance of resiliency inspired these products. She began creating them as she worked to recover from severe spinal injury, during which portions of her upper body, including her hands and arms were paralyzed.  Janine used these tools on her personal path to recovery and still uses them everyday.

From early on in her career, Janine has been passionate about making a difference with people through caring, creativity and insight. Whether it was television and radio reporting for ABC in Madison, WI…hosting a radio show in Italy… authoring a book on sports families… starting the Family Achievement Center…marketing consulting in Bulgaria (for the U.S. Government) to help new businesses compete in the global marketplace… or lecturing, Janine has been connecting with people in special ways for years.
In the corporate world, she was recognized with a number of awards including: Gold & Bronze Lions from the Cannes Film Festival, a Clio, an EFFIE, an Addy and a HUGO. She also received acclaim as one of ten artists selected nationally to participate in the victim advocacy show at the Carrie Secrist Gallery.  Her piece “Broken Lady” was published in the Chicago Reader.  Janine is a working mixed media artist selling her work privately and at galleries across the country. She lives in San Francisco with her husband, Darryl and 14-year old son, Christian and is a regular volunteer at her son’s school.  In her private time, she is an avid Iyengar yoga practitioner. Janine is enthusiastic about her newest products, which are designed to help teach children and teens to write.  She looks forward to working with school systems across the country.

Also on the show, Pastor Dave Macer from Shepherd of the Hills – Antelope Valley will read a blessing, and letters to soldiers will be read by youngsters Max Beck Levin and Hannah Holly.

Military Mom Talk Radio on airs on Mondays at 2pm pst on and can be downloaded directly from . Military Mom Talk Radio is co-hosted by Sandra Beck and Tina Gonzalez and powered by Motherhood Incorporated.

Military Mom Talk Radio Welcomes Marty Martin of OperationGratitude – October 18, 2010

Operation Gratitude, Supporting our troops, care packages to soldiers, sending care packages to soldiers, Military Mom Talk Radio, Sandra Beck, Tina Gonzales, Robin Boyd, Marty MartinMarty Martin is a wife and mother of 3. Her oldest son has served as an officer in the NAVY for 6-1/2 years, getting out in December. He deployed twice: once on a ship in the Gulf, stationed out of Sasebo, Japan, and once in Iraq with Riverine Squadron, stationed out of Little Creek, VA. As most military families will tell you, “I” deployed twice. When your child is over there, part of you is, too. I have been volunteering with Operation Gratitude for 6 years, and consider myself an Op Great addict!

Founded in March, 2003, Operation Gratitude ( ) is the California 501 (c) (3) non-profit, volunteer-based organization that sends care packages filled with snacks, entertainment items and personal letters of appreciation addressed to individually named U.S. Service Members deployed in hostile regions such as Iraq and Afghanistan, and on Naval ships at sea. Each service member receives their own care package addressed directly to them.

Each package has 50 or more items

Our mission is to lift morale, bring a smile to a service member’s face and express to all Armed Forces the appreciation and support of the American people. Every American anywhere in the country can participate either by helping at the Armory, writing letters, knitting scarves, recycling cell phones or organizing collection drives or fundraisers in their own community.

Operation Gratitude receives the names of thousands of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines from commanders in the field who see the positive impact of care packages on their troops’ morale. Individual service members or their loved ones can submit names to receive packages through the website:

The organization sends 100,000+ care packages every year during two major campaigns: A Patriotic Drive in May and a Holiday Drive in the winter. We will send 60,000 packages during the 2010 Holiday Drive. We will send our 600,000th package on December 11th

a. The Patriotic Drive runs April-June; the Holiday Drive runs September-December
b. We welcome volunteers Mon. and Fri. from 9-4 and Tues, Wed and Thurs from 12-4
c. Check website for Weekend dates

Each package contains donated product valued at ~$100-$125 and costs the organization $15 to assemble and ship. Donated funds are used to pay the assembly and shipping expenses. Our annual budget is $1.5 Million cash and ~$15 Million of in-kind products and services. For safety and security, assembling of packages occurs at the Army National Guard Armory at the corner of Victory and Louise in Van Nuys, California. Anyone 12 years and older is welcome to volunteer at the armory.

For more information, visit the website: We are also on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Military Mom Talk Radio on airs on Mondays at 2pm pst on and can be downloaded directly from . Military Mom Talk Radio is co-hosted by Sandra Beck and Tina Gonzalez and powered by Motherhood Incorporated