If you think one person can’t make a difference, meet Graci Tubbs, a member of Chapter 20184, Seminole, Florida. At the young age of nine, she was so moved by the veterans she met at a school assembly on Veteran’s Day that she was determined to find a way to support them as they served overseas. And find a way she did!
Graci began collecting items for care packages (only a few, or so the thought) for military women and men. With the seed money from the Royal Neighbors Difference Maker Fund, Graci and her mother, Kadi, held their first packing party with friends and family, and made nearly 20 packages. What started out as “just a few,” became over 800 packages in the past two years. Operation: Military Matters became a 501(c)(3) in 2016. “That has opened more doors for us and as we get bigger, we can send more,” said Graci.
The recipient’s names for care packages are suggested by friends and community members, as well as submissions through the organization’s website. Specific packages are created for women and men and include items such as toiletries, ramen noodles, laundry pods, snacks, licorice and beef jerky, as well as a special “thank-you” from Graci. Family members, school friends and local volunteers help make the initiative a success. “We have a group of women who have knitted over 200 hats to include in the packages. Those are a big hit.”
When the donations began to take over the Tubbs’ home, Amy Hartman from Realty Experts, Inc., offered a warehouse to store them and be the site of the packing parties. The three-hour parties are held every few months when there are enough donations to make about 200 packages.
Now 12 years old, Graci serves as the spokesperson for Operation: Military Matters. Through speaking engagements, social media and word-of-mouth, nearly $30,000 has been raised to purchase and send the much-appreciated packages to places where our soldiers are deployed across the world: Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East and Italy.
We owe so much to Royal Neighbors and the Difference Maker Fund.
Graci knows first-hand how much the recipients appreciate what she does. Sergeant Major David Cavanaugh of the143rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command based in Orlando, Florida, heard her being interviewed on a television news segment. When he heard her say, “We live in the greatest country in the world and we owe that to our military women and men,” he was so impressed, he asked her to speak to a group of 300 men and women in uniform who were preparing to deploy. Following her talk, each of them waited in line to shake her hand and thank her for her efforts. She also spoke to veterans at an Amazon Distribution Center where she was awarded a $500 donation. Although she may be nervous when she first starts talking to groups, she says once she gets going, her passion takes over and she’s fine.
A soldier in the Middle East reached out and said, “Some days I don’t know why I’m here, but when I got your care package, I knew exactly who I’m fighting for.” For Graci and her family, these communications make all the difference.
Although busy with school and softball, Graci finds time to spend 10-20 hours a week to fulfill her mission. She has been talking with governmental leaders to help her reach her next goal, which is to reduce the $16.15 cost of shipping. “I’d really like to talk with the President to see if our shipping could be free.”
Operation: Military Matters has been a learning experience for Graci. “I’ve learned so much about the military and what they do,” she said. “I never thought we could help so many people. We owe so much to Royal Neighbors and the Difference Maker Fund. That was our first grant and the starting point for us.”
As a reminder, she says, “Anyone can make a difference, no matter what your age. I’ve found that even one care package can change a life.”
For more information or to submit a name to receive a package,
To learn more about the Royal Neighbors Difference Maker Fund, go to www.royalneighbors.org/DMF.