Thousands of troops and their family members will wrap themselves up in the cheerful and soothing comforters they will receive for free once three creative young designers are voted for on Weehawken-based The Company Store’s Facebook page. This is not the store’s first Kids’ Design Contest, but it will be the first time they work with the nonprofit organization Operation Homefront to lull those facing the inevitable difficulties of returning home from military service into a moment, at least, of peace.
“We really want to raise awareness about some of the difficulties those in the military and their families deal with when they return home with post traumatic stress, financial, and other crucial issues,” The Company Store’s Director of Ecommerce David Hirsch explained. “We thought that the creation of a comforter we’d donate to families through Operation Homefront would be an excellent way to show support, especially around Memorial Day and July 4.”
“We really want to raise awareness about some of the difficulties those in the military and their families deal with when they return home.” – David Hirsch
The top three winners will win quite a bit of cash in addition to the satisfaction of knowing their creativity has served a higher purpose.
“The Kids Design Contest is a way for a child’s creativity to brighten the spirits of thousands of military families facing difficult times,” Director of Marketing Karen Feldman announced in a press release. “We couldn’t think of a better way to engage children to support these incredible servicemen and women by giving them the comfort and care that they so deserve.”
The Joining Forces initiative was begun last year by Michelle Obama and Jill Biden. They called upon all Americans to support military members, both active and veteran, in any way they could.
“The stress of war, multiple deployments, and frequent moves can affect the wellness of military families,” according to the Joining Forces website. “Children and spouses can experience anxiety, changes in relationships with family and friends, isolation or emotional challenges in dealing with deployments, illness or injury, and high mobility.”
The Company Store was inspired in part by this initiative to join forces with Operation Homefront during this year’s comforter contest.
“They are a highly organized operation and have great communication with families,” Hirsch said. “There was no better direct link to the cause we were looking to support.”
Since 2002, Operation Homefront has provided emergency financial assistance to military families and wounded soldiers. They have 4,500 volunteers across 23 national chapters and have served more than 590,000 since their inception.
An unprecedented 94 percent of total donations given to the organization go directly to support service members and their families, and they have provided more than $92 million dollars of program funding.
Nonprofit meets for profit
While The Company Store has worked with Operation Homefront in the past, they never have to this extent. When they approached the non-profit’s Director of Corporate Relations Iwonne Salvador with the idea, she was immediately on board.
“While we’ve never done comforters before, there is a definite need for bedding,” she said. “It’s a wonderful idea. Comfort is definitely needed, especially with ten years of war and multiple deployments, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and traumatic brain injury; they’re the people that come to us for help.”
Operation Homefront assists entire families, which is important, Salvador added, as the children are often and understandably not focused on as much as the troops or their spouses. They have put together villages of what she termed “wounded warriors,” which includes both physical and mental wounds. The aim is to keep the troops and their families together as they recuperate and transition either back into the military or into civilian life.
They have chapters and field offices nationwide, with presences at military bases so people know who they are. Because such a large percentage of their donations go directly to those in need, they rely largely on word of mouth to spread the word, which is where The Company Store comes in.
The contest-winning comforters will be shipped to all of the chapters, and each will receive a certain number according to local need.
“It’s fabulous,” Salvador said. “I can’t even begin to express the generosity that they’ve shown.”
For more information on the Kids’ Design Contest and Operation Homefront, visit www.thecompanystore.com or www.operationhomefront.net.
Gennarose Pope may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org