I'm doing something new this year to pay it forward.
Combining my love of baking, crafting and shopping, I've adopted a soldier through http://www.soldiersangels.org. This organization pairs up deployed U.S. soldiers with people in the United States who want to help make a difference. Many soldiers overseas do not receive even a letter from home. When I signed up, there were more than 1,300 soldiers waiting for adoption. You can sign up for a variety of volunteer things, from sending cards, one-time care packages and other one-time deals.
As a Soldier's Angel, my commitment is one letter or card per week and one care package per month while the soldier is deployed. Although it felt a little odd sending a letter to a perfect stranger, I sent my letter out last week. I'm not sure if I will hear from "my" soldier or not -- we'll see! It would definitely help me fill up the care packages if I could learn what he needs or wants in the sandbox.
Letters to APO addresses (Army/Air Post Office) don't cost any more than a letter that is sent anywhere in the U.S. A large flat rate APO/FPO box, which is free from the Post Office and measures about 12x12x6, costs $12.50 to ship.
I sent out a my first package, a Christmas care package, today! I am a little nervous about it -- I hope the soldier likes it, that the cookies I included make it without turning stale or to complete crumbs, and that I filled out the Customs Declaration form correctly.
I sure didn't have much help with the form at the Post Office. The advantage of living in small-town Missouri means you rarely have to wait in line to mail packages. The disadvantage? Sometimes the worker behind the counter doesn't quite know what to do with you and your "foreign" package (nevermind my foreign-ish accent)!
I was vaguely familiar with what had to go on the customs form, and that it HAD to be included on the package. However, the postal lady, who I hope wasn't the postmaster, tried to tell me it wasn't necessary. I told her it was, because the packages were going out of the United States. She finally got on the phone with her supervisor, who confirmed that a form was needed and helped her find the forms, which were finally located in a cabinet at the back of the room. Apparently not very many people in this neck of the woods send packages overseas.
I filled it out the best I could. It is intimidating! Once I got home, I found out that I could have done the whole thing online with much less hassle.
I'm already thinking about January's care package. Ideas and tips -- and a stand mixer and vacuum sealer--are more than welcome!