Every Memorial Day we’re reminded of the sacrifices made by our military servicemen and women. The sacrifices made by our soldiers are abundantly clear. What may be less apparent, are the sacrifices made by the families of those soldiers. Behind every solider is a family. These families are often left emotionally and financially stretched without their loved ones. One of the greatest ways to show support for our servicemen and women is by helping military families. Here are three simple ways you can do just that:
- Make financial contributions to military charities
According to the National Philanthropic Trust, the average American household will donate just under $3,000 to charities each year. Considering there were 124.6 million households in the U.S. in 2015, this amounts to a huge amount of money. Not all of these donations were going towards helping military families, of course, but that doesn’t mean your donations shouldn’t. Over 400,000 charities concentrate their efforts on providing support for military families.
Some charities provide much-needed financial support to military families. Recent estimates have found that over one-quarter of U.S. military families have over $10,000 in credit card debt. Others will offer educational support or work towards helping military families find places to stay when times are rough. Regardless of which charity you choose to support, it’s always prudent to do a little background research beforehand. Sites such as Charity Navigator can help you ensure your donations are truly going towards helping military families.
- Donate used clothing and textiles
Another great way of helping military families for those who aren’t interested in donating financial resources is by making clothing donations. Around 12 million tons of textile and clothing waste is thrown out in the U.S. each year. This results in huge amounts of solid waste landing in our landfills. The average American will generate 1.5 million tons of waste each year. According to the EPA, 75% of that waste is recyclable and yet we currently only recycle around 30%.
Rather than adding to an already growing problem in our landfills, why not donate your used clothes and textiles to charity? Charities use secondhand donations to earn much-needed funding and provide clothing to families in need. All of our dry clothing, shoes, and textiles can be donated or recycled. Even if you think your used item is too ragged to be reused by another family, if you donate it to a charity, they can resell it through their network of recyclers to help finance their efforts in helping military families.
Only 10% to 20% of donations are actually sold in charities’ local thrift shops. The remaining 80% will be resold to recyclers. This is a significant source of revenue for charities and also helps keep used textiles and clothing out of our landfills. Recyclers will separate the items they purchase into three categories: items to be reused and re-purposed, items to be recycled and converted, or items to be recycled into fiber.
Most items are reused and re-purposed by being exported to secondhand clothing stores outside the United States. What can’t be exported is converted for other uses or recycled into fiber. That recycled fiber is what lines our walls as insulation and gives padding to our carpets. Regardless of where your clothes donations to military charities end up, you can rest assured they’ll go towards helping military families.
To make used clothes donations even easier, some charities even provide donation pick up services. If you can’t make it to a local drop off spot, schedule a pick up to have a charity employee collect your donations from your doorstep.
- Express your gratitude
Whether by paying tribute at a local memorial or saying thank you to a military family, you can show your support of our servicemen and women through your kind words and actions. Since it can be hard to make it to your local military cemetery, there are various online monuments which allow individuals to pay tribute to those who have fallen.
Instead of telling a family member you’re sorry for his or her loss, experts advise saying, “Thank you for your sacrifice.” To make it even more personal, you could indicate that you’d like to hear about the fallen family member if they’d be interested in sharing.