I’m guessing that many of you are like me and have a lot of things you don’t need or won’t use. Last month, I sent a package for the first time through AnySoldier.com, and I included many things that I picked up free or super cheap, like cereal bars and instant noodles. I’d like to ask you to consider doing the same, but the site is not the most intuitive so I thought some explanation was in order.
A little about AnySoldier.com: It’s a not-for-profit organization that serves almost like a bulletin board for servicemen and women to post about anything they might need. As I understand it, they sign up from their location, write an introductory paragraph, and (hopefully) list the things they’d like to receive. Some of them seem to understand how this works better than others – I’ve seen listings that only say “please send stuff,” and I’ve seen much more detailed listings that state what amenities they have and the items they could really use. I’m not sure if packages are just handed to someone who doesn’t get a lot of mail, or if the contact opens them up and distributes the contents – it seems like it depends on a number of factors, like where the unit is, its size, and the amenities available.
I recommend starting with the FAQ and reading the “How Does This Work” section as well as the “What to Send” and “How to Send” sections.
Then, head over to the “Where To Send” page and click on any one of the names listed on the left side of the page. The default setting is by most recent email. You can read the various messages and requests to see who wants things that you can send. Most of the contacts seem to be in Iraq or Afghanistan. Once you’ve picked a contact to send a package to, you can request their mailing address by clicking on the link.
Yesterday, the message from Cpl. Robert Cochrane got my attention because he’s asking for basic school supplies like pens, pencils and coloring books to give out to Iraqi children. It just so happens that I have boxes full of school supplies from my shopping this past summer, so I hope to get a package off to him soon.
I shipped my package in a Flat Rate Priority Mail box, because it was so easy to do. (You can pick up different sizes of priority mail boxes at the post office for free.) You do have to fill out a customs form, which is a little tedious. I picked up extra forms so I could do it at home. Right before you send the package, you must check the web site to make sure the contact is still listed, since their status can change without notice at any moment. Once you have a contact’s name, you can sort the list by name to make it easier to find in the future, so this part is very easy to do.
Here are some of the items I’ve seen requested that you may have extras of:
- Feminine products
- Baby wipes
- Travel size toiletries
- Ready-to-eat or instant foods, like nuts, energy bars, mac & cheese, and noodles
- Air fresheners
- Crystal Light or other drink sweeteners
Needless to say, I know what I’m doing with all of that free Stayfree and Nivea lip balm I’ve gotten at Rite Aid this week.
I haven’t heard anything from the recipient(s) of my first package, but that’s okay. As it said somewhere on the AnySoldier web site, these men and women have a lot more important things to do than send thank you notes. I just hope I was able to brighten their day a little bit, and that you’ll join me in doing the same!