My Experience as a USO Elf

USO_LOGO_Project Elf_Script-01

This article is not related to protocol or etiquette; however, I found this experience so special, I knew I had to share it.

This Holiday Season, I had the privilege of being the Program Manager, or “Head Elf” as some affectionately referred to me, for USO-Metro’s Project Elf. Project USO Elf supports military children of junior enlisted service members, E-1 to E-5, by pairing them with Corporate and Community Wish List Donors who sponsor the children. These Wish List Donors buy the children gifts from their Wish List for the Holiday Season. This year, I am very proud to say USO-Metro supported over 1,200 military children in the Washington-Baltimore Metropolitan region!

While this program was quite an undertaking, coordinating 1,200+ Wish Lists between 2 distribution locations from hundreds of Wish List Donors proved to be no small feat, it is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. Planning for the program started as “Christmas in July” and gained momentum throughout the Fall. The build-up to the program was amazing!

On October 1st, the “North Pole” began receiving Wish Lists from children. The notes I read honestly made my day several times. One of my personal favorites was for a 6 year old girl, “She is girly and happy go lucky, very artistic, loves play dates and gymnastics! She has asked for: stuffed Hello Kitty doll, silver pageant crown & wand, ribbon baton twirler, Frozen Anna dress, sparkly silver Mary Janes, Melissa and Doug craft projects. She also likes Chick-Fil-A, My Little Ponies, and fun sparkly colors of Zoya (nontoxic) nail polish.” How adorable is that?! That is just one of the over 1,200 Wish Lists I received that reminded me of the pure joy and excitement the Holidays bring to children. Come November, Wish Lists were distributed to Donors and they were set loose to hit the stores while I stayed at the North Pole organizing the program logistics!

As soon as December 1st hit, I spent the first week of the month on “Sleigh Stops” visiting our Corporate Wish List Donors and receiving hundreds of Wish Lists from several companies. The level of excitement I saw in these donors and the giving atmosphere the companies built around my program was incredible. One company even had so many employees want to give to the program, that the employees started buying popular gifts for us to add to other children’s gift bags saying, “the more the merrier!” Once all the Wish Lists were collected, my amazing volunteers set-up and decorated the distribution sites.

DSC_0403

Project USO Elf Distribution Site #1 with over 800 Wish Lists ready for service member pick-up!


PC100105

Project USO Elf Distribution Site #2 with more than 400 Wish Lists ready for service member pick-up!

When distribution night arrived, I was instilled with an overwhelming sense of calm. That day, I knew all the hard work and long hours I put in were about to pay off – big time! Seeing the smiles and hearing the words of appreciation from service members who received gifts for their children was the only “Thank You” I needed. Realizing we (I would be remiss if I did not thank my amazing USO-Metro teammate and our HUGE volunteer corps. Without the volunteer hours put in by these dedicated, patriotic individuals, my job would not have been possible) had really made a difference in the lives of others was incredible.

This year, the Christmas spirit has not quite “taken hold” of me in my personal life. However, today I realized when over 1,200 military children wake-up tomorrow morning their Christmas wishes will come true thanks to so many generous citizens who wanted to give back and say “thank you” to our service members. Personally, the opportunity to play Santa for these military children has been a privilege and truly an honor. This year, Christmas took on a new meaning for me. I hope to continue to pay it forward to those so deserving of this special program.

“Merry Christmas to all and to all, a Good Night!”

Project USO Elf “Lead Elf”

To learn more about Project USO Elf, please watch Elizabeth Prann’s Fox News coverage of Project USO ElfFor additional photos from Project USO Elf, please visit the USO-Metro Facebook album.

 

Advertisements

Mother’s Day: Simple Ways to Say “Thanks Mom!”

Photo Credit: Levo League

Photo Credit: Levo League

This weekend we celebrate one of the most important holidays, Mother’s Day. I think it is safe to say, we all owe a lot to our moms (and to those women who acted like and watched over us like a mom). On Mother’s Day, be sure she knows how much she is appreciated! Here are some ideas for simple ways to say thank you!

  1. Make a Statement, Write it Down
    • No texts or emails and not just a phone call. Find a beautiful card, or make one, with a sentiment that expresses your gratitude. If your mom is someone who appreciates the little things, having this card to keep will mean the world to her.
  2. For All She Has Done and Still Does, Give Back
    • Growing up, we all know our moms have given a lot to help us; now it is our turn to give back. Find something your mom does and do it alongside her.
      • If your mom volunteers, take the time to go volunteer with her.
      • Does she always do everything to get dinner ready? Help her out in the kitchen and jump in on the cooking.
      • Is mom always keeping the house tidy? Treat her to some help extra help around the house or pay for a house cleaning.
  3. Give a Meaningful Gift, Small or Large
    • A great keepsake and simple gift to put together is a photo album. Collect photos of you and your mom throughout the years, put them in an album, and write down your favorite memories.
    • Do you have a favorite memory or an “inside joke” with your mom? Find a small trinket that commemorates that!
    • Send your mom to get pampered (whatever that means to her) and let her enjoy the day.
    • Has your mom had her eye on a certain something, but will not spend the money on herself? Splurge for her!
  4. Spend Quality Time with Your Mom!
    • If you can give nothing, give of yourself. Amidst our busy lives, we often forget to plan time with those most important to us. Sometimes, we even take them for granted.
      • No plans this weekend? Hop in the car and drive home to see your mom!
      • Plan a meal your whole family can attend. This is especially meaningful if your family lives in different areas/states. Pick one weekend to gather everyone in the same place!
      • If you are a daughter, plan a “Girls’ Day!” Go out for lunch and a movie. Plan a trip to the spa. Go do or see something the two of you have been talking about for a while. The ideas are endless!
  5. Give Your Mom a Hug and Tell Her You Love Her!

What simple things have you done that have meant the most to your mom?

To all the moms out there, especially my own, THANK YOU! In celebration of the wonderful women in all our lives, here is one of my favorite sentiments:

Photo Credit: Mothers Who Know

Photo Credit: Mothers Who Know

Sparkle On,

Alexandra