Purple Up! for Military Children

You often hear about military spouses and the sacrifices they make for their significant other who is serving, but what about military children?

April is the Month of the Military Child, but April 15th is specifically geared at honoring them with Purple Up! Day. 

Purple Up! Day began in 1986 when former Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger acknowledged that servicemen and women are a “sum of their parts” including their spouses and children. He believed that military families should be honored because they are a life-line to those who are in the service. 

The color purple was chosen for  this observance because of the military phrase, “purple suit.” It refers to a military activity or organization that includes civilians and/or multiple branches of the military. Purple is also used for this day because it is said to be the mixture of all the service colors. 

Military children may relocate frequently – having to start over in new places with new people, more than once a year. They endure long lengths of time away from their parents (oh yeah, I know you cry at those school cafeteria reunification videos too.) They do all of this and more, and are often overlooked

Operation Not Alone invites you to wear purple every Friday in April with us to empower and acknowledge military children!

Matilda Cretens

The ONA Intern Program

What they learned and how you can become one too!

“ONA Interns: Past, Present, and Future”

Operation Not Alone (ONA) is proud to offer services and opportunities to active military members, veterans, and the community. But the organization also focuses on hard-working individuals looking to boost their professional resumes, further their skill sets, and create social good, while furthering passionate people entering the non-profit field. The ONA Intern Program, while still young, has helped create an amazing impact for both the community and the ONA team.

Former Intern: Jessica 

Jessica (ONA’s first ever intern!) attended, and graduated from, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh where she majored in public relations and journalism with an advertising emphasis. It was at UWO where she first heard about ONA Founder & CEO, Susan Fochs. Jessica knew Susan from Greek Life on campus, and was recruited by one of her professors to intern with ONA. After hearing about the organization, Jessica knew she wanted to work with ONA because its mission “hits home for a lot of people.” 

During her time with ONA, Jessica focused on the communication side of the organization. She was glad to have experienced working remotely and the need to communicate professionally, especially now that she works from home as a support specialist for Naehas, a computer software company. With ONA being her first internship, Jessica gladly accepted any new experiences she could obtain, such as building and maintaining a strong social media presence.

Jessica advises future interns, both for ONA and in general to, “jump into any experiences that are offered to you. You never know what to expect, but you should appreciate any and all opportunities.”

Former Interns: Allison and Nathan

Allison first joined the ONA team in March of 2020 as a communications intern after graduating from the University of Wisconsin – Platteville. She focused on creating this blog (we love it!), initiating email marketing strategies, and finding new ways to better communicate with anyone related to ONA; be that veterans, active-duty military members, or their communities and families. In a previous interview, Allison stated, “the thing I absolutely love the most about this organization is the team of people I get to work with…they empower me both personally and professionally.” She encourages others to actively search for volunteer opportunities in the non-profit world as they not only teach valuable workplace skills, but also demonstrate the importance of non-profit organizations in our society.

Another former intern, Nathan, started with ONA in the marketing and advertising department in June of 2020, as it coincides with his studies at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. Nathan helped us dive deep into the world of digital advertising, using platforms such as Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and other social media platforms. He’s helped promote our organization and build publicity among many different communities. When asked what he loves about ONA, Nathan said, “we are more than just a non-profit working with veterans and active duty members. ONA is a community, or more like a family, of people dedicated to making positive change.”

As of September 2020, both Nathan and Allison have been promoted to directors of their respective fields and continue working with the organization. As the Director of Communications and Care Packages, Allison manages our blog page, newsletter, email chains, and has recently taken over most of our Care Package Program for overseas military. Nathan works as Director of Marketing and Advertising to promote ONA campaigns and events through multiple social media platforms and other various projects. 

Current Intern: Matilda 

ONA’s current intern, Matilda, has exceeded expectations with her grant writing skills! As grant writing intern, Matilda is responsible for applying for numerous grant programs to obtain funds for the ONA mission. Not only does she help with these applications, but she’s also helped ONA create some awesome video productions and other projects. When asked what motivates her, Matilda said, “I am motivated by the fact that each day is a new chance. If one day you make a mistake, you have the power to choose to do better the next day.” This is something we with ONA all strive to live by. 

Future Interns: It Could Be You!

The ONA Intern Program continues to provide more than just a few college credits. This entirely remote experience gives interns the chance to explore the specific skills and talents they have and utilize them for an amazing amount of social good. In addition, we offer interns the chance to help create their own projects and discover skills they may not have otherwise in a classroom setting – ones perhaps outside their original comfort zone. All of our previous and current interns report learning many valuable skills they use in their personal and work lives, and we want to extend that opportunity to others. 

As the new semester picks up steam, we are opening applications for Fall and Winter 2021 internships. We are looking for individuals interested in Web/Graphic Design, Social Media, Non-Profit Administration, and more. If you have questions or hope to apply for the ONA Intern Program, please reach out to our CEO Susan Fochs via email: susan@operationnotalone.net. Please provide your name, area of interest, a copy of your resume, and a brief paragraph about why you’re hoping to intern with Operation Not Alone. 

Nathan Plym

Director of Marketing and Advertising 

Behind the Scenes: ONA’s Girl Scout Patch Program

Have your worlds ever collided? It’s strange to think about, but make a list in your head of all of the projects or organizations you’re involved with- working, volunteering, board governance- whatever it may be. Have any of those ever overlapped for you? My worlds collided about three years ago and I couldn’t have imagined we’d be where we are today.

I started my post-college career at Girl Scouts of Western New York five years ago. I love it. It is fulfilling, rewarding, and so much fun. In the summer of 2018 as I thought about how we could level-up our ONA game, I thought also about how I could mix my two worlds together. Girl Scouts help make the world a better place- it’s in the Girl Scout Law. They are courageous, they seek challenges, and they give back. So how could I take those amazing qualities Girl Scouts instills in girls and fuse it with our mission at Operation Not Alone? How can we continue to level-up? As individuals and as a team? And then it hit me. I had been volunteering with ONA since I met Susan. I wanted to help her expand and grow the organization that so many of us have grown to love. Thus, the expansion of ONA into New York State, the addition and streamlining of services, and the creation of the ONA earn-a-patch program offered to Girl Scouts worldwide.

The patch program, Mission: Honor, is open and available to all Girl Scouts in grades K-12. The program is structured around the familiar actions of discovering a topic, connecting it to the real world, and taking action to make the world a better place. So in our program Girl Scouts discover the branches of the military and where military bases in the US and abroad are located, they connect with a veteran or military service member to learn about their experiences, and they take action to help make the world a better place for military members, veterans, and their families. The program is free for Girl Scouts across the globe. One of the most rewarding emails I received came from a parent of a girl whose family is currently stationed in Italy- she found our patch program online and completed it on- base with her Girl Scout. How cool is that?! So we get to say that this is a worldwide program, which blows my mind to this day.

Over the past three years, the program has seen annual updates. We are constantly assessing what works best, what girls are looking for, and receiving feedback about the program to improve it. This year, we’re excited to re-launch the program with the same feel it has had since inception, along with a facelift from last year including more inclusive graphics and language, and an adult guide. This year, here’s what you can expect:

  • An environmentally-friendly approach (no printing necessary- explicitly marked on the workbook)
  • Additional up-to-date information about the military
  • A more seamless submission process
  • More ideas for the take action portion of the program

When can you expect the new program to launch? Great question! The new program, along with the adult guide, has been uploaded to our website, www.operationnotalone.net, and is available now! 

To date, we have mailed out 860 patches to Girl Scouts across the globe. Talk about a full-circle moment! My move to Buffalo led me to a career in Girl Scouts. My friendship with Susan opened the door for me to volunteer with Operation Not Alone. And the two worlds collided to line up the stars so I could bring Girl Scouts to ONA and ONA to Girl Scouts. It gives me so much joy when my worlds weave together. I’m proud to serve both of these amazing organizations- both of which are so dear to my heart. My hope is to continue serving and giving my all to the two places that feel like home. Two places so far from each other, but so connected in my heart. 

MeKenzie Lund

Vice President and Director of New York Operations

Mission Moments: How Non-Profit Teams Stay Inspired 

Mission Moments: the small stories that kick-off every ONA board meeting. Every team member shares a moment that occurred throughout the time we’ve been apart that has touched our hearts and reminded us of the mission of ONA. These moments are powerful reminders of “our why”. The “why” we volunteer our free time.The “why” we donate extra out of our pockets. The “why” we dedicate our effort to serving those who have served us. 

Working for a non-profit organization takes a special type of person. These people are the ones that care about others wholeheartedly and believe in something bigger than themselves. The people who will take less pay in order to fill their hearts and souls. The people who live to serve others. These are the people who run Operation Not Alone. We aren’t a large organization, in fact, we are a ‘tiny but mighty’ team of six passionate, inspired, and talented individuals who not only run the 5 services the organization offers, but handle social media, fundraising, PR, website management, and so much more. 

That is why the mission moments are important because we are people who need to know the “why” behind what we’re doing. We need to believe in the mission and know that we are making a difference no matter how small it may seem. It’s what keeps us going on the most mundane tasks, the hardest challenges, or just the general frustrations from the roadblocks we find in front of us as individuals or as an organization.

Personally, a good mission moment whether my own or someone else’s can keep me going for weeks or longer. That’s how powerful they can be. That’s why it is an essential part every time we meet, so we remember our “why” and don’t get caught up in the logistics, the challenges, or the frustrations. 

Operation Not Alone was basically founded on a mission moment that our Founder, Susan Fochs, experienced after sending out the first care package to an Army soldier stationed in Afghanistan. It was the pivotal moment that launched Operation Not Alone off the ground. And every mission moment after that has kept the wheels turning since 2013.

Stay tuned as the ONA team shares their favorite and most inspiring mission moments with all of you!

Allison Foster

Director of Communication and Care Packages

Train Like a Warrior: Veterans and Pleural Mesothelioma

As we continually to critically look 

Veterans who served in certain military occupations between 1930 and 1980 have a high risk of developing mesothelioma from asbestos exposure, and account for 30% of mesothelioma cases diagnosed annually. 

From the 1930s to the 1970s, the US military used thousands of asbestos-containing products to strengthen, insulate and fireproof military bases, ships, aircraft, and land vehicles. Many veterans who were active during this time, could encounter asbestos in base housing and almost everywhere they worked. Persistently breathing in asbestos fibers can cause them to build up in the lining of the lungs, and eventually lead to pleural mesothelioma

Pleural mesothelioma, which forms in the lining of the lungs, is the most common form of the disease, accounting for more than 75% of cases. This form affects veterans at a disproportionate rate compared to the general public. Veterans exposed to asbestos during military service who develop mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases qualify for benefits from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. 

Because of the latency period of the disease, about 20-40 years, many veterans do not get diagnosed until much later in life. However, there is help and support for veterans and their families. The Pleural Mesothelioma Center offers information and assistance for those who find themselves battling this terrible disease. Through their online information hub, patient advocates, and medical outreach program, they are able to help educate patients and families, and connect them with the appropriate care and treatment.   

Check out some of these other sources for more information and reach out if you think this could be affecting your health and well-being: