Every day here at Daily Grommet, we are making new connections and learning the stories of so many people doing impressive things. Our online community is expanding daily, and we enjoy getting to know each new friend. Whenever we get the chance to meet up (in person) with our virtual community, we jump at the chance. I recently had a opportunity to meet up with several of our friends from Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere at an event in San Diego. There, I hit it off with Amy Belle Isle, the Chief Event Planner for Operation Shower. After learning about the amazing work they is doing, I knew I had to report back and help spread the word!
Q&A with Amy Belle Isle
Tell us a bit about Operation Shower, what is it and how did it begin?
Operation Shower started in March 2007 as a simple project, when founder LeAnn Morrissey, was looking for a way to give back to her uncle who was deployed overseas. LeAnn asked her uncle what she could do and he replied that many people send items to the soldiers but what she could do was send a card to four women who were expecting babies while their spouses were deployed. That sparked an idea, so LeAnn got family and friends together to send a “shower in a box” to each mom. After the reception those first boxes got, she knew she was onto something that really made a difference to these women and to their husbands. She teamed up with a friend and held the very first unit-wide shower at Ft. Bragg, NC in June 2007. Since then, Operation Shower has showered more than 450 women on military bases and other locations for the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and National Guard.
How do you organize (and execute!) these wonderful baby showers?
From a party standpoint, I am fortunate that I have made so many wonderful friends in the event planning, party printables and online party blog world. That helps! Time and time again, these wonderful women volunteer to help design printables, send gorgeous product for our dessert tables, set up if it’s in their neighborhood etc. Once we decide on a theme and I have a general concept in mind, I work with the graphic/printables designer to get a feel for the paperie. Then it’s off to come up with centerpieces, feature areas, locate local vendors…the works!
From a product standpoint, we are working on securing companies to donate to all showers for a year or for multiple showers. We are gaining more success with that, but still often must secure most product for each and every shower we host. See below for ways to help!
What has been the most surprising and/or rewarding part of working for Operation Shower?
Surprising? Maybe that it never, ever gets old being at a shower with the moms. Each one is as special as the other because, for those moms, that is their only Operation Shower experience. That or how much has happened in just this past year alone. While still an extremely small organization we have managed to accomplish some really big things.
One of the special parts about Operation Shower is that we give every event as much love and attention as if you were hosting a shower for your best friend. A recent mom-to-be said our shower was “the one thing during this whole deployment she has been looking forward to.” That is big to us. It is our duty to make sure she, and every other mom that walks into our showers, has the experience of a lifetime.
To that, the single most rewarding part is being in that room with the moms when they open their Showers In A Box and win the amazing raffle prizes. Seeing the smiles and, often, the tears are the biggest joy you can imagine. At our last shower, one mom I spoke to said, “I don’t know how I can ever repay you.” After we hugged and both cried a little I told her that she has already paid tenfold with her family’s service every single day. There is no greater reward than knowing that you made a difference to someone.
How can others get involved?
There are many ways to help! As a non-profit, our biggest need is financial support. We have on-line donation through Paypal and Google Checkout on our website (www.operationshower.org) and also gladly accept checks to the address on our site.
We’ve got an Amazon Wish List where anyone can purchase items and have them sent directly to us to be included in our Showers In A Box. This has been a great new way for people to help without having to head to the post office! Lately, we've had some wonderful groups of people around the country get together and host events in their home for Operation Shower. The Wish List is a good way to see what we are most in need of at this time. People can point their guests to our Amazon Wish List or possibly pick a theme from our Shower Kits list. Simply host a party and have every guest brings donations. It’s a great thing to incorporate into all of holiday parties that people might be hosting soon!
Operation Shower event with special guests: First Lady, Michelle Obama and Second Lady, Dr. Jill and Martha Stewart
What's next for Operation Shower?
Lots of fun things! First of all the continuation of our "Fall Tour" of 4 states. We’ve just completed a shower in Groton, CT and are about to head to Norfolk, VA and Atlanta, GA this month and then off to Ft Campbell, KY in November. It’s a busy Fall full of lots of happy moms!
We are also currently working on planning where we will be able to go in 2012. Our goal for 2012 is eight unit-wide showers. Where we are able to go is dependent upon securing sponsors, so we’re working hard on that to plan our calendar! Sponsors welcome.
As mentioned, we are also starting to work on a program to better utilize those around the country that want to volunteer. So much of what we do cannot be “farmed out” at this point but we know there is a way we can involve others in our mission. We look forward to coming up with the plan that works for everyone and helps us grow and reach more moms!
Oh, and 2012 is the year of “Ellen.” A small non-profit can dream, right? We had a goal of having the First Lady attend one of our showers to honor our moms. Well, earlier this year the White House reached out to us and asked us to help kick off the Joining Forces campaign at Camp Lejeune, NC. First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden and Martha Stewart were all there! Following that, we were listed in a Parade Magazine article as one of three of Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden’s “favorite groups that are helping America’s military families.” So, next stop on our “dream list” is is to be a part of Ellen’s Mother’s Day special where she honors military moms. That, or we’ll take any other episode, too! We’d love to come up with an effective social media campaign to get on Ellen!
Thank you Amy for taking the time to share Operation Shower with us. Keep up the amazing work, we know you will continue to grow. Ellen, here they come!