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Archive for November, 2019

Happy Holidays!

The holiday season can be overwhelming with the many events, parties, shopping and gifts that seem to take away from its true meaning of giving. Now that I have kids, it’s important to me and my husband that we start to teach them early what it means to give back, especially when it comes to our military community.

Below, you’ll see several ideas to help you get involved this holiday season but anything that helps is a worthy idea in my opinion. Happy giving!

Holiday Meals for Military 

This yearly program from Operation Homefront distributes ready-to-go holiday meal kits to military families and includes everything needed for a traditional holiday meal. Since 2009, the program has fed more than 90,000 military families and continues to grow each year. Get inspired with photos from past events and help by making a small donation at the Operation Homefront donation page.

Holiday Toy Drive 

I’m sure some of us feel that we can all do with less toys in our lives but for those families who struggle with the expectations of gifts during the holidays, toy drives are the perfect way to pass along the spirit. Operation Homefront’s Holiday Toy Drive is an easy way to do a little good for the next kid. The program collects toys and distributes them at a participating event on base. Learn about how you can get involved at: https://www.operationhomefront.org/holidaytoys.

Consider a Monetary Donation 

We all lead hectic lives, so sometimes it’s just easier to contribute monetarily. Operation Homefront makes it super easy with their Current Needs list, a running list of critical requests for help made by military families across the country. Your donation can help a family pay utility bills, support medical expenses or even pay rent. I love the transparency and that I can see where donations are going. Check the Current Needs page for more information.

Organize a Bake Sale 

Something about the holidays gets me in the baking mood! Instead of doing it alone, think about organizing a bake sale on your base instead. It’s a fun way to connect with other parents in your community, get the kids involved, try different recipes and enjoy delicious treats at the end! A total win-win. You may even want to check in with your local commissary to see how they can help with the cost of ingredients and supplies.

Operation Homefront and Procter and Gamble are proud to partner together to serve America’s Military families.

About Start Strong, Stay Strong: Start Strong, Stay Strong enables military families like yours to connect with your best allies—each other. We’ll help you create the stability, connections and comfort in your military community that you and your family deserve.

About Melissa Stockwell: Nothing is harder and more rewarding than being a military mom. This is something American war veteran and Paralympian Melissa Stockwell knows well. After losing her left leg in combat in 2004 as a 24-year-old first lieutenant, the lifelong athlete and patriot knew should couldn’t stop there. She turned her years of hard training and dedication to para-athletics, and in 2008 earned a spot on the U.S. Paralympic Swim team. She competed for the first time as a Paralympian in Beijing, China. This commitment and new path started a journey that eventually led her to become a three-time world champion Para-triathlete, earning the Paralympic Bronze Medal in 2016. She then went on to co-found Dare2Tri, a nonprofit organization that introduces people with disabilities to the sport of triathlon. However, has been nothing compared to the joy and reward of Melissa’s biggest accomplishment—becoming a mom. Her two kids Dallas and Millie motivate her to continue to dream big and inspire her to serve as a role model so that one day they too will learn to discover their own dreams.

Whatever type of mom you are, Melissa helps us see that all moms are on a mission, together. Visit Melissa’s Corner and join today!

Inspire!

Melissa has inspired military spouses across the country at Operation Homefront events like Homefront Celebration and Star-Spangled Babies showers

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What to know before you go

Buying a car is often the second biggest purchase a person can make, second only to purchasing a home. Yet, the process can often be rushed and the buyer at a disadvantage. With the holidays around the corner, and dealerships flooding the internet and airwaves with end-of-the-year sales ads, we asked caseworker Tonya Cooper for tips and tricks for buying a car.

Ask yourself some questions. Why are you buying this car? Is it a want or a need? The point is to really examine why you are making the purchase and look at how it fits into your budget. And be sure to look at how you will be using the vehicle. Is it just for one person to get back and forth to work or is it a family vehicle? Looking at what you need will help you narrow down your options.

Research, Research, Research: Knowledge is power, Tonya said. “You don’t ever want to walk into the dealership and give the dealer all of the power. You don’t want to walk in and say sell me a car. Ideally you know exactly what you want and exactly what you want to pay for it.”

She recommends the sites Edmunds.com and Truecar.com as ways to do most of your research. You need to know your budget, the market standard for the vehicles you have chosen, and your financing options. Let’s tackle those one by one.

Know your budget. To help with budgeting, financial counselors recommend that cars take up no more than 20 percent of your gross income, that is including fuel and insurance. Understanding gas prices in your area and knowing the gas mileage capability (like 21 miles per gallon) of your car is important for your budgeting purposes. Of course, this also depends on the rest of the household expenses. To help with budgeting, use the Edmunds.com affordability calculator. Overall, Edmunds.com has several calculators that can help you decide, including a “gas guzzler trade-in” calculator.

Learn market standards. If you know what the market standard is for the vehicle, then it is easier to know if the dealership is selling at a good price. Edmunds has true market standard listings. This is what the vehicle retails for, on average, at the dealer.

Financing options. Always secure financing before going to the dealership. The best places to go are your bank and possibly a credit union. They are the ones who will give the best interest rate. By having financing secure, this ensures that you will not go over your budgeted amount. It also helps you negotiate the total price of the car because you do not need the dealer’s financing. Keep in mind, just because financing is secured does not mean it has to be used.

 

Test Drive. So, you did your research, you have your financing, and now you are ready to go pick out your vehicle. Be sure to test drive. And then walk away, Tonya said. “The biggest thing I can stress here is don’t buy on the first trip to the dealer. Go home and sleep on it.”

Bring a friend or use a car-buying service. You know the car you want and now it’s time to buy. If negotiating makes you uncomfortable, bring a friend or trusted loved one to the dealership. Bounce ideas off them and ask them to help you stick to your financing and plans. Or, use a car-buying service, which takes your information and sends that to dealers who will then contact you. The prices are already lower so when you get the retail price, no need for haggling.

Beware filler! Extended warranties; windshield, dent, and tire protection, are all what Tonya calls “fillers” that are just another way for the dealer to make a profit. And if you do decide to sign on the dotted line always read the fine print first.

A tip on trade-ins. Always negotiate the trade-in value separately. A used car’s worth is easy to find by using Kelly Blue Book, Edmunds and Truecar.com. If the dealer’s offer is too low, try to sell privately, or check in with a car reseller like CarMax. Most states have information online at the department of motor vehicles sites. Ideally, the money made form a private sale will go straight to the down payment of your next purchase.

Even with the best laid plans, emergencies can happen, and help is needed. As a caseworker for Operation Homefront’s Critical Financial Assistance program, Tonya has worked with service members and veterans who have needed help paying for bills, such as car payments. To learn more about the CFA program and Operation Homefront, click here.

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vickie at baghdad sign

Operation Homefront Communications Manager Vickie Starr

With 84 percent of our staff either veterans or coming from a military family, the 100th anniversary of Veterans Day resonates at Operation Homefront. 

From our top executives, to our staff working throughout the nation, and from our board members to our volunteer brigade (more than 4,500 strong with 56 percent being service members or military spouses), Operation Homefront understands the sacrifices made by our country’s military families.

We asked one of our own to tell us, in her own words, about serving our country.

Operation Homefront Communications Manager Vickie Starr, veteran, US Air Force November 1978 – August 1987; US Army May 1990 – 1993 

I have several immediate thoughts when I think of Veterans Day. The first is the overwhelming support that the American people showed to military troops during the Gulf War in 1990-1991. As part of the 786th Transportation Company, an Army National Guard unit in Lucedale, Mississippi, we were activated in November 1990. As we made the drive from Lucedale to Fort Stewart, Georgia, we encountered many people waving miniature flags as we passed by. Whenever the convoy stopped, people voiced their support of us, America, and the U.S. military.

When we returned from our deployment to Saudi Arabia in May 1991, I was once again overwhelmed by the support—this time from Vietnam veterans and the local Bangor, Maine community.  We were, by far, not the first troops to return from Desert Storm—the first in country were the first out. Yet, when our plan landed in Bangor for refueling, at 3:00 a.m. (as in early, early pre morning), this Mississippi Army National Guard unit was met by a group of local Vietnam veterans. These Vietnam veterans wanted to make sure that all military troops were welcomed back to the United States. They had also convinced members of the local community that getting up at 2:00 a.m. to welcome soldiers back to the United States at 3:00 a.m. was a great idea. At that point, I really knew that being a member of the military was being a part of brotherhood, and I would always have a connection to this select group of individuals.

A few years after Desert Storm, I got together with a fellow soldier and attended the Laser show at Stone Mountain, Georgia. As the night fell, the show began which was military themed. Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an American” played across the loudspeaker as the American flag wavered against Stone Mountain. Each branch of the military was recognized, and the veterans in the audience were asked to stand. I had never considered myself to be more patriotic than anyone else, but in that moment I had an overwhelming sense of patriotism, an overwhelming sense of pride, and a few tears. When Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Some Gave All” played a few minutes later, the tears did not stop. The cost of freedom is never free, and we must always remember those who walked before us, and that “All Gave Some and Some Gave All.”

That same support from the American people, that I witnessed firsthand in 1990, is what allows Operation Homefront to accomplish all of the many things we do for today’s veteran and military families. Our supporters give of their money, time, and goods, which we must always be thankful for – they are our cheerleaders. The other driving force is the “brotherhood of the military” (please note that as a female the brotherhood is meant to be inclusive of all). People associated with the military want to help each other as witnessed by my encounter with the Vietnam veterans in Maine. Operation Homefront helps veteran and military families because many of us have a tie to the military, and we want to give back to our brothers and sisters, who will in turn pay it forward and give back to others. And the pride and patriotism keeps all of us going when the days are long and things seem to go wrong. Patriotism reminds us that some of our veterans, our military, and their families made the ultimate sacrifice, while others are living with their sacrifice daily.

Join Operation Homefront in recognizing the 100th celebration of Veterans Day through our Raise Your Hand campaign. Click here to learn more.

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