Our Guest = Jess Manfre, the co-founder of the #GivingTuesdayMilitary campaign. I am a Coast Guard spouse of 13 years, and a licensed social worker and writer, which keeps me really busy. I drink a lot of coffee, I love to read, have 2 dogs that are nuts, and I love working with people to make a difference. When we use our voices together we can do powerful things!

DoD Updates: 

Inconvenience Claims are designed to offset costs if your shipments arrive late. This year, you can either do a baseline reimbursement, which is the per diem rate based on the service member’s meals and per diem only. If you already had air mattresses and cookware and were prepared to house-camp, this is a good method so you don’t have to save receipts. The other option is to save receipts for air mattresses, basic cookware, etc. This starts the day after your shipment misses its RDD, and is to cover essential items only. 

Emails about weight shipments do include your Pro Gear, Spouse Pro Gear, etc. DPS sends an automated email and cannot do that deduction. The deduction comes from your local transportation office, where they deduct 10% for your packing materials, and up to 2,000 pounds total depending what you have for Pro Gear. 

So Jess, what is #GivingTuesdayMilitary and how did it come about?

I did a home makeover for a family with military spouse Maria Reed, and I was impressed with the amount of people who came out of the community to help, even when they didn’t know the military family. I had followed #GivingTuesday for a while, and I shared it to their page, and they actually responded! They invited us to do our own campaign for the military community. Junior enlisted families don’t always have a lot of funds to share with giving campaigns, so we had the concept to make a difference with Acts of Kindness. 

We launched #GivingTuesdayMilitary in 2019, with the goal of 1 million acts of kindness, and were able to impact 2.5 million people! Last year, we stormed Capitol Hill with kindness, and stickers, and just brought smiles to so many people. This year, of course the pandemic changed things, but yesterday was Giving Tuesday and it was amazing!

What type of Acts of Kindness were you seeing this year?

It doesn’t matter what you do–anything will make a difference! Of course we had some big projects: organizing blood drives, sending letters to veterans in hospice, helping the homeless, etc. We had one military spouse who had just PCS’d through COVID, and then suddenly decided the day before to make a bunch of gift bags and distribute them all over her base. Yes, we need large community efforts to rally around, but even sending thoughtful phone calls, text messages, and letters can be inspiring and make a difference. An act of kindness can cost nothing, but it can change someone’s day. Give a compliment! Your smile can change lives. We are all masked up and distanced, but we desperately need each other. 

What did you do for #GivingTuesdayMilitary this year, and how did it compare to last year?

I’m near St. Louis, where homelessness is a huge issue, and there are a lot of kids in foster care. It wasn’t just me, but there was a whole team of the Spouses’ Club, plus 5 different businesses joining together to raise 350 pairs of pajamas for foster kids! We also focused on organizing a blood drive, partnered with Chik-fil-a and the YMCA. My fellow milspouse designed a shirt that says “Be Kind, Give Blood, Save Lives” and we handed those out. When you give blood, it can impact 6 people and go to trauma patients and cancer patients. One of the most special things I saw was a local business member who wanted to write a check to our non-profit. I wanted to see where the need was greatest, so I reached out to some social work girl friends, and they told me about Call for Help, which offers 24-hour counseling for victims of sexual assault or domestic abuse, plus transitional housing. I called them and told them I wanted to make a donation to support their charity. We went shopping and got clothing and toys and essential items for every child and adult in their care. When we showed up with those full carts, there wasn’t a dry eye. It was a ripple effect that didn’t just help the people receiving the gifts, but also the care workers and so many other people.

We saw additional acts around the world, and there are so many stories of people impacting others with notes, free coffee, food for the gate guards, etc. I can’t pick a favorite, it is just all so wonderful!

Giving Tuesday isn’t just about one day. How can military families impact others and show kindness all year round?

Think about small businesses and non-profits– you can leave a positive review that will make a big difference for them throughout the year. 

At PCSgrades, we are doing this right now with our #MilFamsGiveBack campaign. Our site is all about listing reviews of housing on and off military bases, plus schools, moving companies, real estate agents, and anything that will make your move easier. People trust the reviews on our site because they are all written by and for fellow military families, so when you leave a trusted review, you are helping other families make informed choices. During the month of December, for every housing review left on the site, we are giving $5 to a military-friendly charity of your choice: large or small! It’s a great program to help you give back!

We want to make every Tuesday a #GivingTuesday. It doesn’t have to be a big project, but dedicate 15 minutes to doing something kind, volunteer some time, make a phone call, let other drivers in front of you, etc. When someone upsets you and you don’t know what is going on with them, try not to judge. Remember that we never know what someone else is going through. 

How can one show kindness when they have a friend preparing for a PCS move? 

Military spouses go through “speed dating” when they arrive somewhere new, but they also withdraw and go through the “break-up” when they are preparing to move. So instead of withdrawing, try to print out some photos, do something fun to celebrate your time together, make a gift that will help them have an easier transition. When you see someone new arriving, be part of the welcoming committee! Join the spouses club to put together little welcome notes, hello’s, etc to let people know that it is going to be ok. Everyone needs a friendly face and emergency contact they can reach out to when needed. Remember how it feels to be the new person, so step out of your comfort zone and give that friendly hello. As seasoned spouses, it is our responsibility to do that. 

Kindness starts at home, so remember to be kind to your family and those around you. It isn’t just about reaching out to your community and neighbors. How you raise your children and what you do at home is also important. Get your spouse coffee, fill up their gas tank, etc. It means so much!

How can military families get involved in #GivingTuedayMilitary?

We have an amazing Facebook group, and you can always get involved there. We have ambassadors all over the country arranging events, so there are local groups where people organize their local events and activities. We are all over social media, and are pretty accessible for messaging, so reach out with any questions! We are always growing the program and gathering more participants, and you can use that hashtag to showcase your own acts of kindness! Let’s make 2021 even bigger and better! 5 years from now, we want everyone to know who #GivingTuesdayMilitary is!