Veterans Stand Down Event: Bringing Good Packs to Miami

It’s 10:45 am at the Betty T. Ferguson Recreational Complex in Miami. All around the room, groups at colorful tables arrange their brochures for various veterans’ services. At the Greater Good Charities table, Good Packs filled to the brim with essentials lie in neat rows ready for the taking. 

Soon veterans start to arrive, and our table is an immediate draw. We encourage all who step up to take a pack, pointing to the neatly displayed contents in the middle of the table. There’s a blue fleece blanket, a t-shirt, Bombas socks, a water bottle, Colgate toothbrush and toothpaste, Sunbum sunscreen, Dutch Harbor Brands wipes and Skout’s Honor hand (and paw) sanitizer. 

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We also point to the pet subpacks, encouraging anyone with a four-legged friend to grab one. Alongside the collapsible dish, treats, wet food and leash from The Animal Rescue Site is a knobby blue and gray football that many vets pick up with a quizzical look. “It’s a dog toy!” we laugh.  

As the morning progresses, men and women young and old in Army hats, Navy jackets and every branch in between stream past the Greater Good Charities table. As we hand them Good Packs and thank them for their service, the resounding response is a “Thank YOU!”

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Photo © Greater Good Charities
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Photo © Greater Good Charities

In their surprise and gratitude, these veterans want to learn more and tell us about themselves. They ask what we do as an organization. They talk about their lives, one woman stylishly dressed in camo lifting the pink medal around her neck to tell me that yesterday she was at another event celebrating her triumph over breast cancer. 

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They talk about their friends, many asking if they can take an extra pack for a buddy who couldn’t make it. We gladly let them, and I’m reminded how much veteran support comes from other veterans, how important community is for those who have served. 

They talk about their pets. More than anything, they love to talk about their pets, eyes lighting up when we tell them about the pet packs. A couple dogs make appearances with their loving owners, who let them sniff the treats and toy, fondly tell us their names. 

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One woman’s breath catches when I mention the pet supplies. Tears in her eyes, she tells me it’s the anniversary of her precious pup’s passing. I know her pain and give her a pack for the new dog she’s adopted, agreeing that no pet can really be replaced, but it’s good to have someone new and cuddly to hug. 

By 3 pm, we’ve handed out all 75 pet subpacks and nearly all 250 Good Packs and the last vets are trickling out. I feel inspired at having been able to show up for our servicemen and women and have a blast doing it. 

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Greater Good Charities has distributed over 32,000 Good Packs to people in need, thanks to incredible donors and supporters like YOU.  

As we head into the winter, cold in many locations, our veterans need our help more than ever. Please consider supporting veterans by making a donation this season.

Ellie Snyder is the Social Media Manager at Greater Good Charities and spends her days sharing the stories of how our donors and supporters help us amplify the Good every day.