“Life is an exciting business, and most exciting when it is lived for others.” – Helen Keller

This is a thought Operation Appreciation proudly stands behind. Based in Georgia, this nonprofit dedicates all of their time and energy to providing much-needed assistance to veterans and active duty service members. It’s a small price to pay for offering a bit of hope during tough deployments and a difficult reintegration into the civilian world.

Picture leaving the comfort of your home to travel to unknown territory. Just imagine returning to the world you left behind to find that everything has changed.

“Our mind is on scheduling ourselves, our job, our children, our social activities. We cannot forget this is a freedom that comes at a very high price, and we need to recognize those who give us that freedom.”

Beth W., President of Operation Appreciation
Founder Beth Waters receives an honor flag for Operation Appreciation’s work

At Operation Appreciation, no man or woman is left behind. A completely volunteer-run program, this nonprofit goes through the muck and mud like the best soldier to get the troops everything they deserve. From fully-stocked care packages to elaborate welcome home events, our nation’s finest are offered a bit of peace and happiness in the moments they need it most.

Always humble, and in the same spirit as the men and women she serves, Beth Waters, President of Operation Appreciation, doesn’t want recognition or glory, but she definitely deserves it. We here at Quality Logo Products® believe her hard work and dedication to our troops should be recognized, which is why it’s an honor to choose Operation Appreciation as the first recipient of Give Your Brand a Hand for 2018.

Give Your Brand a Hand is our monthly giveaway, created with nonprofits like Operation Appreciation in mind.  Applicants who make less than $1 million in annual revenue and have fewer than 50 employees can enter for their chance at securing $500 in free promotional products. Our team hand-picks the recipients based on their organization’s mission and their answer to the question: “What would you do with $500 in promo items?”

Showing Appreciation

This soldier is all smiles as she opens her custom care package.

Money for advertising doesn’t grow on trees, but no price is too large and no request is impossible. With the help of family resource programs and chaplains, the volunteers at Operation Appreciation put together monthly care packages with items any military member would be happy to receive. These include: hygiene products, socks, peanuts, beef jerky, books, batteries, and anything else a deployed servicemen and women may need to be more at ease in uncomfortable conditions.

The smallest things make a major difference in the morale of active-duty military. If you want to send your own care package, simply reach out to Operation Appreciation and they’re more than happy to provide an APO address. Just look at the smile on this soldier’s face when she received her very own care package!

Not only are the troops treated to these care packages, but upon returning home they receive a warm welcome. Whether they’re in-state or overseas, returning service members are greeted by hugs from their loved ones, handmade signs, a sea of red, white, and blue with flags waving, and wailing bagpipes, one of Beth’s personal favorites. Everyone’s patriotic spirit is the first thing a veteran feels when they come off the bus or down the runway and into their family’s arms. These events are short and sweet and serve as a way for Operation Appreciation to let these hard-working military members know they have someone in their corner.

Family and friends are eagerly waiting for their soldiers to come home.

The care packages and welcome home events are in addition to the many other things Operation Appreciation does for the troops. Whether it’s hosting Family Fun Days where kids can connect with others who have parents deployed or working closely with the Girl and Boy Scouts on various projects, every day is dedicated to making the life of the military a little easier.

No Job is Too Big

Care packages and welcome home events are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the services offered by Operation Appreciation. Beth and her team go above and beyond the normal call of duty by rolling up their sleeves and doing the tough work. One such instance was a home they remodeled for a disabled veteran. This man had proudly served his country, but was dependent on everyone around him for help with things we usually take for granted like getting dressed and driving. Upon returning home in a wheelchair, his home wasn’t built to accommodate him any longer. There was no ramp to get to the front door, the doorway to the bathroom wasn’t wide enough, and there was shag carpet throughout the house.

“I can’t even tell you the smile and the pride on this man’s face. It made him feel alive again.”

Beth W., President of Operation Appreciation

Operation Appreciation came in as a crew and completely remodeled his entire house. They created a new ramp, made the doorways wider, ripped up the carpet for laminate flooring throughout the entire house, took out the tub, and put in a standing roll-in shower with reinforcement bars and a bench. It was worth the sore muscles to give this man his home and life back.

For every moment of hope, such as the one offered by the home remodel, there are still moments of great loss. Operation Appreciation stands behind the troops and their families during the most tragic events. On several occasions, they have fronted the costs for the funerals of active duty service members lost in battle or family members left at home who leave this world too soon.

Never leave a fallen comrade. Operation Appreciation honors a veteran of 32 years.

During a particularly impactful moment, Beth traveled out of state to assist a soldier whose parents had been involved in a terrible explosion. They were in the middle of a vacation and their son, an active duty soldier, had just been deployed overseas since he couldn’t find work upon returning home. With no paycheck and reeling in the shock of this accident, the soldier was forced to fly back home and take care of his parents in the hospital.

Operation Appreciation was able to get this man a place to stay, a rental car, and free meals. After his mother passed away, the nonprofit also raised enough money to cover her funeral costs. This shoulder to lean on helped ease the burden of this soldier’s grief.

Red, White, and Bear

Perhaps the most ambitious initiative set forth by Operation Appreciation is their beautiful Red, White, and Bear cabin. After retirement, the sweet life would probably involve living freely in a waterfront property or a secluded cabin in the woods. However, Beth and her husband sacrificed  this kind of life to instead give active duty service members a chance to reconnect with their loved ones.

“Our veterans don’t even question serving their country. It’s our pleasure to spoil them for a few days and let them know how much we care.”

Beth W., President of Operation Appreciation

Just this past year, they took all of their savings and bought land in the North Georgia mountains. They built a cabin dedicated entirely to the troops. A stay here is a break from the stress of coming home after deployment, giving service members uninterrupted time to spend with their loved ones. To date, 33 veterans and their families have been housed in the Red, White, and Bear cabin. From enjoying scenic walks to playing board games with their kids, this mini-vacation is a chance for them to reenter the world they left behind and decompress after all the stress and struggle they’ve endured. All room, transportation, and food is 100% paid for by donations to Operation Appreciation.

The Red, White, and Bear cabin was worth all the sweat and hard work.

The Advertising Battle

The Red, White, and Bear cabin is relatively new in terms of the programs offered by Operation Appreciation. As such, our promo products had a role to play in bringing more awareness to the cabin. After all, Beth wants as many veterans as possible to stay and receive the quality time they need with their family.

In April 2018, Operation Appreciation will be hosting an open house for vendors, volunteers, military members, and builders to visit the cabin and see the final result. This event will be a day of networking, enjoying nature, and fundraising for the organization. Our promos will be right by Beth’s side, helping her spread the word about Operation Appreciation and getting their brand in more hands.

To prepare for the event, Beth went with custom aluminum water bottles, reusable lunch bags, and khaki tote bags featuring the Red, White, and Bear insignia. These giveaways will be on the front lines, ready to build Operation Appreciation’s brand and get a tangible item into the hands of visitors. In turn, they’ll be able to talk all about Operation Appreciation’s mission with people who may not be familiar with the cause.

Support Our Troops

If provided the opportunity, Beth would love to expand with even more cabins. There are so many deserving candidates, but only one facility to house them all. Not only that, but she’d like to continue offering morale boosting events, family fun nights, and even more assistance with anything and everything the troops may need before, during, and after deployment.

This is where your support is critical. Whether it’s through fundraising, offering care packages, or sending money, Operation Appreciation relies on donations, sponsorships, and volunteers to stay in operation. Without everyone lending a hand, they wouldn’t be able to come through with these life-changing moments!

You can make a donation* to Operation Appreciation by sending a check to:

Operation Appreciation

6053 Mountain Top Ridge

Hiawassee, Georgia 30546

Or make a donation online!

Want to see all of Operation Appreciation’s work in action? Follow them on Facebook!

Does your small business or nonprofit need a helping hand? Enter for your chance by telling us your unique story at:  www.giveyourbrandahand.com!

*All donations made to Operation Appreciation are completely tax deductible.

About the author

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is a promo expert with over four years of experience in the industry. She is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products and has had work published for the Promotional Products Association International and the Advertising Specialty Institute.