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Disaster Prep and First Response

First Responders Care for Us, and We Need to Care for Them

Photo: Courtesy of Matt Chesin

Operation Gratitude is the largest nonprofit in the country for hands-on volunteerism in support of first responders, active duty military, and veterans. Since 2003, Operation Gratitude has delivered over 2.6 million care packages and enabled hundreds of thousands of volunteers to express their deepest appreciation to the brave men and women who willingly put themselves in harm’s way everyday in service to our nation and their own communities. 

Now in 2020, our commitment to support the United States’s nearly 2.4 million first responder heroes is as strong as ever. Thanks to the ongoing support of our volunteers and partners, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, we were able to send bulk hygiene and snack items along with handwritten letters of gratitude to first responders who continue to serve on the frontlines in the midst of this crisis. Since March, we have sent hundreds of thousands of items to almost 80,000 first responders in more than 82 departments around the country, and we are just getting started. 

A critical response 

As a spouse of a first responder, I get to see what real-life heroism looks like every day. My husband, like millions of other police officers, deputies, firefighters, and paramedics, continues to serve with the same dedication, bravery, and strength as when he started his career, and for that, I am humbled and grateful. 

Every single day, we are fortunate to have the opportunity to thank those who serve, and the feedback we receive — like this letter from a Detective from the Chula Vista Police Department —exemplifies the importance of showing gratitude: “The mission of Operation Gratitude has lifted my spirits as a first responder during these difficult and challenging times.”

Building bridges between communities

There is also the issue of a civilian-service divide. In the most recent Bureau of Justice Statistics surveyissued in the fall of 2019, the number of Americans age 16 or older who had contact with the police declined from 26 percent to 21 percent in four years, a drop of more than 9 million people. This lack of understanding and positive interaction could also be contributing factors to record-low levels of recruitment for both the military and law enforcement

Addressing the civilian-service divide and ensuring support for our first responders and their families is critical at this time. Through the #VirtualVolunteerism initiative, Operation Gratitude provides civilians everywhere in America a tangible way to say “thank you” through active, hands-on volunteerism. Handwriting a letter of gratitude is one of many ways people can actively thank a first responder for their service — helping to bring communities together and bridge the divide one act of gratitude at a time. Operation Gratitude, on behalf of our generous donors and millions of passionate volunteers nationwide, will continue to show the brave heroes on the frontlines of this national pandemic the truth about their service: As they are working grueling hours around the clock, they can count on the unwavering support of grateful Americans. Since they can’t stop, we won’t stop.

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