Operation Shower honors those who stand and wait
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 4, 2009 - There are no medals of valor for the nation's moms-to-be whose spouses are serving overseas in the U.S. military, but a little-known St. Louis nonprofit is honoring their special sacrifices with surprise baby showers-in-a-box.
Since 2007, Lena Morrissey and a few of her friends have "showered" 300 expectant military moms who are on active duty or whose spouses are deployed overseas with festive boxes of best wishes and "onesies," handmade blankets and cheery stuffed animals and board books.
Morrissey said the inspiration for the endeavor, dubbed Operation Shower, came from her uncle, a career Army officer who was deployed in Iraq.
He asked a favor: Could she please send greeting cards to the expectant wives of four of his soldiers, a simple but friendly gesture of support?
Morrissey, 39, and the mother of a little boy, said she immediately understood the significance of her uncle's small request: Deployment was proving hard on these expectant moms and on the dads, worrying from afar.
"When you focus on the homefront, you are still supporting the soldiers," Morrissey said.
She receives email from soldiers asking that Operation Shower do something special for their wives. Just this week, she said, a solder serving in Iraq wrote that he had discovered her organization on the Internet. His wife is seven months pregnant - and it would mean so much to him if she could get a shower-in-a-box.
Thank-you notes from "showered" parents express gratitude for the baby gifts but also for the meaningful memories.
"At times I think that the sacrifices that we are making as a family are overlooked," wrote a woman whose husband was deployed in Kuwait. "Then I received the shower-in-a-box in the mail. Thank you for reminding me that our sacrifices are not forgotten and are appreciated."
They Also Serve Who Stand and Wait
President Barack Obama has declared November as Military Family Month , and Morrissey is hoping that Americans will consider helping organizations, such as Operation Shower, that provide services and support for military families. After eight years of war in Afghanistan and six years of war in Iraq, many of these families have lived through multiple deployments.
Donations of new baby items come mostly from small companies that cater to expectant moms and babies. The recession has taken a toll on these businesses, and donations are down, Morrissey said.
"The spirit is there. They really want to give, but it is a question of how much they can afford," she said.
The packing and shipping are done by a handful of volunteers who donate their time to Operation Shower, but the group needs help with shipping costs, which average about $15 to $20 a box.
Morrissey, who worked as an attorney before her son was born, now spends countless hours each week, collecting donations, answering correspondence and packing boxes.
"When he's in school, this is what I do," she said.
In addition to sending gift boxes to individual moms-to-be, the group has held 10 unit-wide showers on military bases, including two at Scott Air Force Base. In September, Operation Shower teamed with the March of Dimes to assist moms of babies in the neonatal intensive care unit at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Va.
Morrissey said that she was struck by the heavy burden faced by these women who are dealing on their own with critically ill babies, while worrying about their husbands serving overseas.
"I just can't imagine how hard that must be," she said.
About operation shower
The St. Louis-based nonprofit delivers boxes of baby clothing, blankets, toys and toiletries to moms-to-be who are on active military duty or whose spouses are deployed. For more information, go to: www.operationshower.org.
Some ways to help:
- "Operation Give Thanks," a benefit for Operation Shower will be held from 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, at Monarch Restaurant and Wine Bar, 7401 Manchester, St. Louis. The restaurant is donating a portion of the proceeds from a select menu to the organization.
- Donations may be made online at www.operationshower.org .
- "Holiday Shoperation": Participating retailers of baby items will donate a percentage of their sales to Operation Shower. A complete list is available on the website.