Why I Donated to the American Red Cross Gift Catalog

By Joe Traylor

During my time at college, I became friends with many students that were part of the Reserve Officer Training Corps, commonly known as ROTC.  It never really dawned on me that they would be going overseas to Afghanistan and Iraq.  These are some of my best friends, and they are fighting for my life.  Now that the season of giving is at hand, I decided to give back to them.

The author Joe Traylor and his friend, Cadet James Pooler.

The author Joe Traylor and his friend, Cadet James Pooler.

I began searching for ways to donate to the military.  Then the American Red Cross came to mind.  Their Holiday Gift Catalog was exactly what I was looking for.  The catalog has three ways to help the troops.  One is Emergency Communications.  This delivers urgent messages to service members that may require them to come home to tend to family emergencies.  Another way to help our troops is through Reconnection Workshops.  The Reconnection Workshops are small-group classes held by mental professionals to help returning service workers readjust to society.  Though these two are excellent services for the military, I chose to go with the Military Comfort Kits.

While the thought of one of my friends getting injured makes me feel ill, knowing that the military comfort kits helps an injured soldier makes me feel reassured.  That is why I went with the Military Comfort Kit.  These kits go to military hospitals and are given to wounded soldiers.  In the kits are items such as a robes, shower shoes, toiletries, and even music gift cards.  Knowing my friends, I know that a gift like this would put a smile on their face.  And that makes me feel that I am truly contributing to their, and other wounded soldiers’, well-being.

Regardless of all of the other gifts I have bought this year, these kits make me feel like I actually made a difference; that I gave a real gift for Christmas.  For $100, I gave two comfort kits to two different individuals.  I encourage everyone to donate in some way through the Red Cross.  It is a gift that really matters, and it gave me a feeling of bettering the world.  It could do the same for you.  There are many other ways to donate aside from helping the troops.  You can find the one that is most important to you.  Let the Red Cross help you give with meaning this year.

How can you send Holiday Mail for Heroes, this year?

Our annual Holiday Mail for Heroes program provides cards of thanks and support to the members of the Armed Forces, veterans and their families.

This year the program will operate a little differently. In previous years, participants and local chapters sent cards to a central P.O. Box.

This year, cards should be sent directly to our local chapters. Participating Red Cross chapters will determine how to best distribute cards to service members, veterans and family members in their local communities, across the nation and around the world. Cards may be delivered individually, included in care packages or displayed at common venues in military installations and hospitals.

In Northeast Ohio, you can mail or drop cards off at the following locations:

Stark & Muskingum Lakes
Muskingum Lakes Office
1451 4th St. NW
New Philadelphia , OH 44663
Drop off Deadline: December 5

Greater Cleveland
3747 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44115
Drop off Deadline: December 5

Lake Erie/Heartland
Wooster Office
244 West South Street
Wooster, OH 44691
Drop off Deadline: December 1

Lake Erie/Heartland
Elyria Office
2929 West River Rd. N.
Elyria , OH 44035
Drop off Deadline: December 1
**We are hosting a signing at Light Up Lorain on 11/29 and community members can bring cards there, too. Just look for Red Cross table!

Summit, Portage, and Medina Counties
501 West Market Street
Akron, OH 44303
Drop off Deadline: December 5

In order to make cards as meaningful as possible for a wide audience, we recommend that you use generic titles such as “Dear Service Member,/Veteran/ Military Family Member” when writing the cards. Cards should not contain glitter because some cards may end up at the bedside of a wounded service member and the glitter could aggravate existing health issues.

We ask that people not enclose any items with the holiday cards. Any items enclosed with the holiday cards will be removed, including photos and other gifts. If you wish to provide financial support for Red Cross services to the military, please donate online.

How can you get involved in the Holiday Mail program beyond mailing a card?

  • Word of Mouth: Host a card signing party as part of your Thanksgiving Celebration!
  • Social Media: Connect with fellow card senders through social media channels and help us get the word out through Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to use the hashtag #holidaymail.
  • Help Sort and Deliver Cards: If you are interested in helping sort and deliver cards, please contact Pat Buckhold at buckhold@redcross.org or 216-431-3370 to see how you can help.

What would you do if extreme weather forced you to stay in your car for hours?

Extreme weather can happen anywhere and at anytime. Typically, the public has advanced notice of extreme weather and can prepare for the event. But consider the ice storm that stopped Georgians in their tracks last January. Some travelers were stuck in their cars on the interestate for 12 or more hours.

So, what can you be prepared for the next #blizznado? (#winterblizz? #heckofalottasnow?)

A lot, actually! Be aware of the amount of gas you have in your car and never let it get below a quarter of a tank.

Pack a special Emergency Kit (Car Edition!) that you keep in your car. Include:

  1. Flashlight with extra batteries
  2. An extra Cell Phone Car Charger
  3. Blanket and/or emergency Mylar blanket
  4. Fleece Hat, Gloves, Scarf (one set for each traveler)
  5. Flares
  6. Folding Shovel
  7. Sand or Cat Litter
  8. Ice Scraper and Snow Brush
  9. First-Aid Kit
  10. Small battery-operated radio
  11. Emergency contact card with names and phone numbers
  12. Extra prescription medications
  13. Bottled Water (4 quarts per traveler – don’t forget pets!)
  14. High protein snacks such as nuts and energy bars; canned fruit and a portable can opener
  15. Maps
  16. Whistle
  17. Baby formula and diapers if you have a small child
  18. A baggie of pet food, if you frequently travel with your four-legged friends

Additionally, know the differences between winter storm outlooks, advisories, watches and warnings.

  • Winter storm outlook – Winter storm conditions that are possible in the next 2 to 5 days.
  • Winter Weather Advisory – Winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous. When caution is used, these situations should not be life-threatening.
  • Winter Storm Watch – Winter storm conditions are possible within the next 36 to 48 hours. People in a watch area should review their winter storm plans and stay informed about weather conditions.
  • Winter Storm Warning – Life-threatening, severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours.
    • People in a warning area should take precautions immediately.

10 ways to stay safe during this latest round of cold temperatures


Here are ten ways to stay safe during this latest round of cold temperatures:

Wear layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm. Gloves and a hat will help prevent losing body heat.

Wear layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm. Gloves and a hat will help prevent losing body heat.

  1. Wear layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm. Gloves and a hat will help prevent losing body heat.
  2. Know the signs of hypothermia – confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. If someone has these symptoms, they should get immediate medical attention.
  3. Watch for symptoms of frostbite including numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness or waxy feeling skin.
  4. Bring the pets indoors. If that’s not possible, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.
  5. Avoid frozen pipes – run water, even at a trickle, to help prevent them from freezing. Keep the thermostat at the same temperature day and night to help avoid freezing pipes.
  6. Do not use a stove or oven to heat the home.
  7. Space heaters should sit on a level, hard surface and anything flammable should be kept at least three feet away.
  8. If using a fireplace, use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
  9. Turn off space heaters and make sure fireplace embers are out before leaving the room or going to bed.
  10. Learn how to treat cold weather related emergencies by downloading the free Red Cross First Aid App at redcross.org/apps. More information about winter safety is available on redcross.org.         

This free coffee can’t thank you enough for your service….

…but we can.

Thank you.

As a show of gratitude for their service to our country, many restaurants will be offering free food or drink to our current military members and veterans this Tuesday, November 11. To take part in these offers, don’t forget to bring along your proof of military service which includes and military I.D., Current Leave and Earnings Statement (LES), a Photograph in uniform, a veterans organization card (like the American Legion or VFW) or other forms of paperwork like discharge papers, etc.

*Please call ahead to verify that your nearest location is participating.

Applebee’s – free meal, Nov. 11, 2014: Last year, Applebee’s served over one million free meals to military veterans and active servicemembers. Applebee’s is again offering a free meal to military veterans and active-duty service members on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014. Visit the link above for more information. Military ID or proof of service required.

Bob Evans, Nov. 11, 2014. Free All you can eat hotcakes. For active duty military and veterans with ID or proof of service.

Carraba’s, Nov. 11, 2014. Free appetizer of your choice for active duty servicemembers and veterans. Military ID or proof of service required.

Chick-fil-A, Nov. 11, 2014. Participating locations are offering a free meal to all veterans and those currently serving. ID required. Please call ahead to verify.

Chili’s – free meal, Tuesday, Nov. 11 2014. Chili’s is offering all military veterans past and present their choice of one of 7 meals during the dinner hour, or any lunch combo during lunch. Offer only available at participating Chili’s in the U.S. only. Dine-in from limited menu only; beverages and gratuity not included. Veterans and active duty military simply show proof of military service.

Denny’s, Nov. 11. Free Build Your Own Grand Slam® on Tuesday, Nov. 11, from 5 a.m. to noon for all active, inactive, and retired military personnel. Participating locations only. Please call ahead.

Einstein Bros Bagels, Nov. 11, 2014. Free coffee at participating locations. Available to all active duty members and veterans with ID or proof of service.

Friendly’s, Nov. 11, 2014. Free breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Offer available for active military and veterans with ID or discharge papers. Participating locations only.

IHOP, Nov. 11, 2014, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Free Red, White and Blue pancakes, or Red, White and Blue pancakes combo plate including eggs, bacon and hashed browns. Participating locations only. Please call ahead to verify participation.

Krispy Kreme – Free doughnut and small coffee, Nov. 11, 2014. Available only at participating Krispy Kreme stores. Offer available to all active-duty, retirees, & veterans. Be sure to call ahead to verify your local Krispy Kreme is participating.

Lone Star Steakhouse, Nov. 11, 2014. All veterans and active duty military will be eligible for a free Starter. ID or proof of service required. Please call ahead for verification.

LongHorn Steakhouse, Nov. 11, 2014. Complimentary Texas Tonion and non-alcoholic beverage. Offer good for Veterans and active-duty military members. Proof of service required.

Max & Erma’s, November 11, 2014. Participating Max & Erma’s locations are offering military members and veterans a free Best Cheeseburger in America Combo. Dine-in only. Call ahead to verify participation. ID or proof of service required. Visit above link for more information.

Menchie’s, Nov. 11, 2014. All veterans and current servicemembers will receive a free 6 oz. frozen yogurt on Veterans Day.

Outback Steakhouse – Nov. 11, 2014. Outback Steakhouse is honoring America’s military veterans by offering active duty military and veterans a free Bloomin’ Onion and a non-alcoholic beverage. This offer is available to Military Personnel and veterans with ID. Also receive 15% off your purchase from Nov. 12-Dec 31, 2014.

Perkin’s Restaurant & Bakery, Nov. 11, 2014. Participating restaurants are offering current servicemembers and veterans a free Magnificent Seven meal. Beverage not included. Call ahead to verify participation. ID or proof of service required.

Red Lobster – Monday, Nov. 10 – Thursday Nov. 13, 2014. Free Appetizer on Veterans Day with military ID or proof of service. Vets may choose from a select list of appetizers.

Red Robin, Nov. 11, 2014. Free Red’s Tavern Double and Bottomless Steak Fries for all Red Robin guests with a military ID or proof of service. Visit link for more information.

Ruby Tuesday’s, Nov. 11, 2014. Free appetizer at participating locations, proof of service required.

Shoney’s, Nov. 11, 2014. Free All-American Burger to veterans and active duty servicemembers. Dine-in only, Proof of Service required.

Starbucks, Nov. 11, 2014. Free tall brewed coffee for active duty, veterans, and their spouses. Participating stores only. Please call ahead.

Texas Roadhouse, Nov. 11, 2014. Free lunch event to honor the men and women of our armed forces. Choose from one of 10 free meals, plus sides and a drink. Offer good for All veterans – including all active, retired or former U.S. military. ID Required. Dine-in only. Call ahead to verify times and locations.

T.G.I. Friday’s, Nov. 11, 2014. Free lunch for all current military members and veterans from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Valid ID or proof of service required. Dine-on only at participating locations. Be sure to contact your local T.G.I Friday’s for details.

The Olive Garden, Free entrée, Nov. 11, 2014. Offer good for veterans and active duty military; proof of service required. See link for details.

Tim Hortons, Nov. 11, 2014 – all US locations are offering a free donut to all active duty servicemembers and veterans. No purchase necessary. Proof of service required.

Also, don’t forget to mark your calendar for this one:

Golden Corral – Free meal, Monday Nov. 17, 2014 (5pm – 9pm): The 14th annual Golden Corral Military Appreciation Monday dinner will is available to any person who has ever served in the United States Military. If you are a veteran, retired, currently serving, in the National Guard or Reserves, you are invited to participate in Golden Corral’s Military Appreciation Monday dinner. For more information visit http://www.goldencorral.com/military/.

For updates to this list, please visit http://themilitarywallet.com/veterans-day-free-meals-and-discounts/