Operation Gratitude volunteers assemble care packages for troops over Thanksgiving weekend

Ashley Bailey/KPCC

Troops help prepare packages for troops overseas during Operation Gratitude.

Hundreds of volunteers in the San Fernando Valley are making post turkey-day plans for Operation Gratitude, preparing holiday care packages for American troops deployed overseas.

Operation Gratitude development director Dana Chotiner said they’ll need extra hands to assemble 20,000 packages with items such as jerky, socks and handwritten letters.

“There’s a difference between saying you’re thankful and feeling thankful, and actually doing something that makes it tangible," she said. "And so having the assembly days happen right after Thanksgiving, I feel like we’ll all be able to put our words into action, because believe me, assembly days are action-filled.”

Chotiner said volunteers don’t need to sign up ahead of time. The organization welcomes anyone 12 years and older to help out Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the National Guard Armory in Van Nuys.

Marty Martin of Bel Air is a military mom and Operation Gratitude volunteer. She says there are other ways volunteers can reach out to soldiers if people can't show up in person.

“They can write letters to the troops, which is the most important thing that these soldiers tell us when they get the boxes," she said. "The letters from Americans — just kind of telling them about their day, words of appreciation and thanks, and that doesn’t cost anything. It costs some time, but it doesn’t cost any money.”

Martin says the Navy deployed her son Jason overseas twice during the seven years she has volunteered with Operation Gratitude.

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