Operation Shower Throw Baby Showers for Military Families
Operation Shower is an amazing organization that shows appreciation to mothers who have spouses serving overseas during their pregnancies. These wonderful celebrations for these deserving families are given individually and incredibly unit-wide. We spoke with founders Kris Jackson and Lena Morrissey about how they recognize and the sacrifices military families make by producing and coordinating these showers of love.
Baby Lifestyles: How did Operation Shower start?
Lena Morrissey: In early 2007, I decided I would love to do something for the armed services in some way. My Uncle was serving overseas as a commander in the Army and I asked him what the soldiers could use. His response was that I should send something to the moms as they are the ones keeping families together while the husbands are deployed. I began to think about what a great idea this was and how hard it must be for the women who are pregnant and having babies while their husbands are away. I enlisted some friends and a few companies to help me put together “showers-in-a-box” for four women which were mailed in March 2007.
I received a wonderful response from people wanting to help and the boxes were received with great joy! It was a amazing feeling to do this for these moms. Following these initial showers in a box, I decided to try to do something a little larger – and hold a unit-wide shower. I was a columnist for Clever Parents, owned by Kris and David Jackson, and asked them if they would like to get involved. They were very enthusiastic and we set out together to do the first unit-wide shower at Ft. Bragg for 17 new moms and moms-to-be. It was held on June 3, 2007 and was also a great success. We had 64 donors (companies and individuals) and the approximate cash value of the donations was $14,000.
On December 8, 2007, we held a unit-wide shower for 45 moms at Ft. Hood, Texas for the 1st Medical Brigade. We received total donations approximating $44,058. The majority of the donations were product donations. However, we did receive $1450 in cash donations. This year, we also sent boxes to 23 moms in Gulfport, Mississippi at the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74 for a shower they were holding on February 11,2008.
Kris Jackson: After the Fort Hood shower, we hosted our biggest effort to date: four unit wide showers over the course of two weekends (two in California, one in Missouri and one in North Carolina) in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Mother’s Day. We partnered with Wal-Mart and showered 100 women representing units from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. It was amazing. Lena and I wanted to sleep for a week after the festivities were over! (Alas, motherhood called.)”
BL: How would you describe the mission statement for Operation Shower?
KJ: Operation Shower is a non-profit organization that recognizes and honors the sacrifices military families make by producing and coordinating baby showers for pregnant and expecting military personnel and their families. We believe every new life is a cause for celebration!
BL: The shower in a box is a box delivered to one expectant mother. Is this a surprise to her? What items are generally found in the box? Does it follow a typical baby registry?
KJ: The shower in a box is a surprise to the moms. We try to schedule them so they arrive when the mom-to-be is in her last trimester. If we know the gender of the child, then we make the boxes gender-specific. In addition to basic baby care items like diapers and wipes, we try to provide some of the nicer items like clothing and toys that you may find in a specialty store. In the past, for instance, we have provided Haba toys, Svan bouncers, Vincent shoes, Olive Kids bed sets, Love Me Baby Me gift sets, Dishy Duds monster tees, Sofia Bean onesies and bibs, Boca Beth Spanish-learning and Your Baby Can Read DVDs, pregnancy journals, Tots and Tails Designs blankets and burp cloths, Kalencom diaper bags and – of course – board books!
BL: How have you gotten various companies involved with donating to Operation Shower? What has their response been to your efforts?
KJ: Lena and I have reached out through our connections we’ve made through Clever Parents and Lena’s Notebook. We also let our readership base know about upcoming events. We’ve had a really positive response so far. Now that we’ve had several showers, though, we are looking for ways to reach more potential donors so we don’t go back to the same well every time.
BL: What was the first unit wide shower like? Can you describe the mood in the room?
KJ: It was one of excitement, anticipation and surprise. Picture 17 women and their friends and family sitting around a decorated room in a semi-circle chatting. A professional photographer took the women one-by-one for a mini session (later the moms were able to go online and pick the image of their choice to keep). We had hidden the presents (each woman received their own personalized large box chock-fill of specialty gift items) in a separate room. One-by-one we called each of the moms’ names and set their ‘Shower in a Box’ in front of her. Then they all tore in. As they were opening gifts, we also raffled off several bigger ticket items like high chairs and bed sets. The women had no idea what to expect which made it all the more fun!
BL: Unit wide showers must have been quite a party. Do you decorate a room? Serve any food? Is it an actual party beyond the showering of gifts?
KJ: It’s definitely a party! We like to throw the shower like we would throw one for a friend. We decorate, serve food, have punch and cake. If there’s time, we’ll play a game or two, but most of the time there are so many presents that it takes a while to get through them all!
BL: What are the responses from the moms-to-be about Operation Shower?
LM: I was really shocked to see that so many people came to support us – People that we don’t even know. One new mom whose husband was deployed and who herself is also an active duty soldier, said “It’s just really good to feel supported.”
KJ: I remember one mom who came up to me after the shower and thanked me. She said she thought she might get some diapers and wipes and she was completely blown away by the whole thing. It seemed like a lot of the women felt that way.
Lois Stubbs, wife of Lt. Col. Mark Stubbs, Almost five years ago we got to Fort Bragg, at the time we had a 5 and a 2 year old, and I was 7 months pregnant. My husband and I had never been separated by deployment and the day we got to North Carolina, we found out that he was going to leave in 10 days and he would miss the birth of the baby and not see him until he was 4 months old. I’m a prior active duty soldier, I spent 10 years in the army. But at that moment all I was, was a mom whose husband wasn’t going to be there. I don’t want to say it was devastating but it was so difficult. We talked with Lena and Kris about what we could do for family members I immediately thought of the moms. My heart reached out to them. It just shows how much the American population supports the troops and the family members. The outpouring that the American public has showered on these women is incredible. It’s indescribable. I knew it would be nice, and have lovely gifts, and to watch those moms open them. . .it brings a tear to my eye.
BL: You’ve received some beautiful notes from high ranking officers in thanks. What does it mean to you to see how your efforts are appreciated?
LM: It means a great deal because we know that the officers appreciate what is being done for the families. They recognize, as do we, that the mothers and families that stay home while the troops are deployed are as deserving as the troops are of our support and anything we can do to help is special. We were able to help the Fort Hood troops right before Christmas and that was a great feeling.
BL: Tell us a little about your Operation Give Thanks Event.
LM: Operation Give Thanks is our first official fundraiser. It was held right before Thanksgiving and was our effort to raise awareness in the local community of Operation Shower. We hope that the awareness that this event brings will help generate future donations and volunteers to continue to grow Operation Shower and allow us to continue sending our “showers in a box”.
BL: Where are you looking to take Operation Shower into the future? What are your goals for the future?
KJ: We’d like to be able to do a lot more showers! For that to happen, we are kicking off a sponsorship program to help underwrite the events. We would also like to find some volunteers who are able to help us both on an ongoing basis and with the individual showers (packing boxes, coordinating shower details, helping with decorations, etc.). Finally, in order to have more showers, we need more items donated! We don’t have a large inventory of items waiting to be given away, so when we decide to do a unit-wide shower, its back to the drawing board in terms of recruiting donations.
For more information on Operation Shower, visit their website: Operation Shower.org