As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10-11 ESV)
With the advent of the autumn season comes much opportunity to reflect upon the blessings God has bestowed upon us. Along with the more obvious day of gratitude, Thanksgiving Day, comes a lesser celebrated day, Veteran’s Day.
November 11, Veteran’s Day, is the one day set aside each year to honor the patriotism, love of country, and sacrifice of all those who have served in the Armed Forces of the U.S., including those currently serving. For several years now, our family has attempted to repay that service in a very small way — by sending care packages to our troops.
This small token of gratitude is amazingly meaningful to those who have received our simple gifts. When you’re far away from home and those you love, it doesn’t take much to make your day. A box of toiletries, a pair of socks, some much coveted beef jerky — things most of us pass by on our weekly grocery store visits — become priceless treasures to those living in less than desirable conditions.
Today, I want to help your family serve in this way as well, by sharing three different themed care packages that can be easily assembled for about the cost of an average family’s trip to a fast food restaurant, as well as some tips for sending care packages to our troops.
What do I need to know about shipping care packages?
I’m glad you asked, because there are a few things you need to know, including some hard and fast rules about sending care packages.
- No obscene or pornographic articles are permitted (prints, cards, DVDs, etc).
- Non-authorized political materials are not permitted.
- Bulk quantities of religious material contrary to Islam are not permitted (items for personal use are allowed).
- Pork or pork by-products are not permitted.
- Each care package mailed must be accompanied by the customs form found here. Be sure you read the instructions for how to complete the form properly. Any errors and your care package may not be delivered.
- My personal preference for packaging is the large Priority Mail flat rate box. The shipping rate for this box is $16.85 no matter how heavy it is, and the post office will discount that to $13.30 for boxes going to an APO/FPO address. The boxes are free for the taking at your local branch of the USPS or you can order them online here.
- Chocolate should not be included in care packages, especially during the hot summer months.
- Shop at your local dollar store. We were able to fill two boxes of toiletries for less than $40. Our food box was more expensive because we needed to head to the grocery store for much of the food. That box came to about $35. Still that’s three care packages for $75, or an average of $25 each. Many families will spend $25 driving through a fast-food restaurant!
- Don’t send homemade food items. Shipping times may be delayed, and these foods could spoil.
- Place anything liquid (shampoo, body wash, etc.) into plastic zipper bags in case they spill.
What items should I include?
Generally speaking, you should choose a theme for your care package — toiletries, food, or entertainment. There can be some crossover between the three, but for the most part, boxes that contain toiletries should not also contain food. I find it much easier to pack according to theme. For this Veteran’s Day, we chose to pack 2 boxes with toiletries (one for a man, and one for a woman) and 1 box of food items. Below are list of items you might consider including for each box.
Toiletries Care Package
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Bar soap
- Body wash
- Hand lotion
- Dental floss
- Shaving cream
- Hand sanitizer
- Lip balm
- Baby wipes
- Foot powders
- Feminine hygiene products
- Bug spray
- Over-the-counter pain relievers
- Socks (cotton or wool)
Food Care Package
- Tuna in foil packs
- Ramen noodles
- Canned or dried fruits
- Sunflower seeds
- Roasted nuts
- Beef jerky
- Instant coffee, herbal teas, hot chocolate
- Drink powders, such as Gatorade, Tang, Crystal Light
- Protein powders
- Granola bars/Power bars
- Instant oatmeal packs
- Trail mix
- Peanut butter
- Cheese/peanut butter crackers
- Individual boxes cereal
- Hard candies
Entertainment Care Package
- Card games
- Travel games
- Personal CD player (don’t forget the batteries!)
- Video games
- Small Nerf balls
- Writing paper
- Puzzle books
- Pens and/or markers
- Stuffed animals (for the troops to hand out to children)
- Books and/or magazine
- International phone cards
How do I find a soldier for my care package?
Most of us know someone who has a loved one currently serving overseas. Ask around, post a message on Facebook, or ask your pastor. If you can’t find a connection through your friends, family, or church, there are several ministries who match soldiers with families who wish to send a care package — AnySoldier and Give2theTroops are two such organizations. In the past you could just address your box to “Any Soldier” and it would be distributed. It is my understanding that is no longer acceptable.
Be sure to include a card or letter, expressing your gratitude to the soldier who will receive your care package. Also include your email and/or snail mail address if you would like to receive a reply from your solider. Have your children draw pictures and/or decorate the inside of your box with drawings, messages, and stickers. Children of all ages will enjoy taking part in this effort, from planning the shopping list to packing the box. This is such a simple way to show our gratitude and be the hands of Jesus during a trying time in the life of a soldier. May God richly bless our efforts.
How about you? What are some of your favorite Family Projects?