Volunteer Effort to Aid Returning Soldiers

Help is being sought for a project which will benefit a large group of soldiers who are returning from a deployment back to Kansas.

A group of Fort Riley soldiers will soon be coming home from a deployment partnering with NATO allies in Europe, and a volunteer effort is underway to make their barracks feek like home.   Volunteers are working for an organization called “Operation Once in a Lifetime” to supply single soldier barracks rooms with pillows, blankets, sheet sets, towels, wash cloths, shower curtains, and air fresheners.

Supporters say the return home can be a daunting experience for single soldiers who do not have an established support system in the area and providing these items greatly lessens the burdens these young soldiers will face.

Here are some details:

The Operation

 Operation Once in a Lifetime is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization based out of Dallas, Texas. Operation Once in a Lifetime’s mission is to make the dreams of U.S. Service Members and their families come true by providing once in a lifetime experiences for the military as well as emergency financial assistance through their multiple programs. The programs are open to all U.S Service Members, their families and Veterans who have served our country honorably regardless of rank, deployment status, physical condition or branch or service. Operation Once in a Lifetime worked closely with command teams of 1ABCT during the deployment, providing care packages and paying for the flights of service members to return home for the birth of their children.

The Purpose

 Single soldiers returning to the barracks after a deployment come back at all hours of the day and night, often coming back to empty rooms. Many soldiers’ items are locked in storage, and after a long deployment, a long flight home, finding and picking up their baggage, reintegration meetings, and finding their room assignments, they still need to go through the process of locating their belongings and unpacking. Comparatively, married soldiers are able to walk into a home that is already established and they are more likely to be greeted by family. Operation Once in a Lifetime is providing the community with the opportunity to be that family for single soldiers. Supplying them with an already set up room means these soldiers are able to return home, relax, and receive a true Hero’s Welcome from a community that appreciates and supports their service to our country.

The Reach

The group is comprised of 7 Battalions, with an additional MP company attached to the Brigade for this deployment. There are 1,500 single soldiers returning to the barracks. The vast majority of these soldiers are young and make less than $30,000 a year. The need to purchase items to furnish their living quarters adds an additional burden to already financially vulnerable soldiers. This deployment was the first for many of these young soldiers, and was extended due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The reintegration process for soldiers can be difficult, especially for young soldiers who are not returning home to family or an established support system.

The Cost

The projected cost of this project is $48,750 and is broken down as follows:

  • Pillow- $3.50
  • Blanket- $10
  • Sheet Set- $10
  • Towel- $3.50
  • Wash Cloth- $1
  • Shower Curtain- $3.50 ($7 for shower curtain, only 1 per 2 soldiers)
  • Air Freshener- $1

Total- $32.50 per soldier

Total number of soldiers- 1,500

Projected Cost- $48,750

The Current Support

Operation Once in a Lifetime is hosting a Facebook Fundraiser for this project. All funds raised through this effort go directly towards purchasing the aforementioned supplies. To date, $11,245 has been raised.

An Amazon Wish List has been set up for donors across the country to send supplies directly. To date 48 pillows, 89 blankets, 114 sheet sets, 174 towels, 288 wash cloths, 66 shower curtains, and 264 air fresheners have been received.

The Cass County Elks club dropped off 3,631 items to 1ABCT Headquarters including 85 pillows, 43 blankets, 185 sheet sets, and 3 towels. They also dropped off items such as laundry detergent, hygiene products, and snacks.

USO Kansas is helping by supplying 1,500 bags filled with hygiene supplies.

Sam’s Club in Salina donated a $50 gift card.

Target in Salina and Target in Manhattan donated a combined gift card total of $150. Manhattan Target Employees have committed to volunteer to help set up barracks rooms.

The Capitol Federal Foundation is providing a $500 grant to the project.

Members of the 1ABCT Soldier and Family Readiness Groups, 1ABCT Ready Reserve soldiers, and community members have volunteered their time to collect, inventory, and organize donations. SFRG members have also started working with Barracks managers and the 1ABCT Soldier and Family Readiness Assistant to deliver supplies as needed to the barracks.

Other opportunities for funding are actively being pursued.

The Current Fundraiser Status

This project is not currently fully funded.

Supplies are being sent to the Barracks on a continual basis. To meet demands, any supplies obtained using donated funds have been purchased at a price point below the projected item cost.

The total fundraising goal is based on what can be expected to pay per item at any given time. Items are available at or below the given values at multiple local and online retailers. Value of items collected have been determined using these prices in order to estimate the amount required to successfully complete the project mission.

242 pillows, 216 blankets, 293 sheet sets, 295 towels, 536 wash cloths, 113 shower curtains, 93 shower curtain rings, and 36 air fresheners have been purchased using $5,679.69 of Facebook fundraiser donations, the $50 Sam’s Club gift card, and a $50 Target gift card. The total amount spent was $5,779.69. Purchases were made predominantly within the local community at Target, Walmart, Dollar General, Family Dollar, Dollar Tree, and the Exchange. Some purchases were made via Amazon, shopyourexchange.com, and Walmart.com when immediate local supply was depleted. Through shopping sales and traveling to multiple locations in Fort Riley, Junction City, Ogden, Manhattan, Salina, Topeka, Wichita, and Derby, the value of the donations purchased is $8,332.50. This has saved a total $2,552.81.

385 pillows, 348 blankets, 592 sheet sets, 472 towels, 824 wash cloths, 179 shower curtains, and 300 air fresheners have been collected. The total value is $14,776.50.

1,115 pillows, 1152 blankets, 908 sheet sets, 1028 towels, 676 wash cloths, 571 shower curtains, and 1200 air fresheners are still needed. The projected value of items needed to complete this project is $33,973.50.

The total amount raised through Facebook, grants, and gifts cards is $11,945. The total amount spent is $5,779.69. There are $6,165 in donations still available. The value of goods collected is $14,776.50. The current fundraiser value is $21,158 after adding the value of goods to the available donations. When subtracted from the $48,750 goal, the actual amount needed to complete this project is $27,692.

The Ask

Operation Once in a Lifetime and the community of volunteers assisting with this project need additional support to ensure that every single soldier returning to Fort Riley receives a warm welcome. As a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, donations exceeding $100 to Operation Once in a Lifetime are eligible for a tax deduction. Donations of funds, goods, and time are all vital to mission success. Please contact Krystle Koch today to join the community in welcoming 1,500 single soldiers of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team home to Fort Riley. Just over $30 welcomes one single soldier home, and 852 soldiers still need your help.

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Here’s the link to the fundraiser:



And here is the amazon wish list: