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Macy's

When he was just 7 years old, Jake Wood decided he wanted to help victims of war.

It started when he visited Mauthausen, a Nazi concentration camp in Germany where members of his family were forced to live during World War II. He saw the barren cells where people had once slept and the chilling areas where they were put to death.

As he looked over all the terrible aspects of the camp, he wished he'd been there to save people from suffering. In that moment, he decided to dedicate his life to helping people in distress — and that he'd do it by joining the military.


So in 2005, after graduating from college, he joined the Marine Corps and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

But when he returned home, despite having received awards for his many accomplishments as a sergeant, he didn't exactly find a long list of jobs that called for the skills he'd developed while serving.

The job hunt wasn't the only challenge Wood faced as a veteran returning to civilian life.

He went from spending 24 hours a day in a community with like-minded individuals to feeling isolated among civilians who couldn't relate to his experiences.

This transition has caused many veterans to lose their sense of purpose; the path they've been on for so long has ended, and they no longer feel like they're making a difference in the world.

But here's the thing: Veterans' skills are incredibly useful. They can be integral to so many nonmilitary-related situations, especially those that involve saving lives.

Wood got a huge reminder that his skills were still needed after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in January 2010. The quake killed hundreds of thousands of people and completely devastated Haitian residents.

In many places, survivors were left without food, clean water, and medical aid, but the damage surrounding them was too difficult for emergency workers to get through safely.

Wood, however, had faced dangerous terrain like it before. And he'd been trained to see his way through it.

Armed with skills he learned in the Marines, Wood headed straight to the heart of the disaster in Haiti along with fellow Marine William McNulty and six other volunteer veterans and first responders.

Jake Wood and Team Rubicon. Image by Kirk Jackson, used with permission.

The Haitian government and aid organizations warned Wood's team not to go into the treacherous areas that needed the most help. However, despite the risks to their personal safety, they continued on their mission.

Thanks to their persistence, they were able totreat thousands of earthquake survivors who needed medical support and other aid.While the task had seemed impossible to other aid organizations, Wood and his team had just the right set of skills to reach some of the most vulnerable people.

With that in mind, Wood and McNulty started an organization called Team Rubicon, a veteran-led disaster response group.

Team Rubicon volunteers working during recovery efforts. Photo by Jeremey Hinen, used with permission.

During his experience in Haiti, Wood had realized that the instability and resource limitations following a natural disaster are pretty much the same conditions that troops deal with in Iraq and Afghanistan. Knowing how to work as a team, assess risks, and provide emergency medical care is exactly how the troops got through those conditions — and exactly what disaster zones need.  

So, with Team Rubicon, veterans work with medical professionals to bring first aid, supplies, and manual labor to help communities recover as quickly as possible after they've been hit by a natural disaster.

A member of Team Rubicon helps out after 2015 tornadoes in Oklahoma City. Photo by Kirk Jackson, used with permission.

They completed four missions in their first year in 2010, and that number has risen ever since. In 2017 alone, they carried out 61 operations. The number of participants has ballooned as well, from that small team of eight in Haiti to more than 70,000 volunteers in 2017.

The Team Rubicon veterans have brought this invaluable training to areas such as Puerto Rico, where they removed debris and distributed medical supplies to survivors of Hurricane Maria. In Houston, they rescued residents stranded by flooding after Hurricane Harvey. In places like Honduras, they’ve helped teach local paramedics cardiac life support skills. All in all, Team Rubicon’s work has helped saved countless lives around the world, and here in the United States.

Team Rubicon responds after a tornado in East New Orleans. Photo by Jeremey Hinen, used with permission.

And thanks to support from brands like Macy’s, they’ll be able to reach even more communities. As part of Macy’s July 4 Give Back campaign, you can get 25% off your purchase in stores or online by donating $3 at checkout. $1 of each $3 donation will benefit Team Rubicon by helping deploy 35 Strike Teams on domestic operations to help survivors of disasters over the coming year.

But you’re not just supporting a disaster relief organization. Thanks to Team Rubicon, veterans can come together and use their skills for vital missions, which in turn helps remind them that they're valued members of an indispensable team. It's also a chance for veterans to live a fulfilling life after military service, surrounded by empathetic colleagues.

Team Rubicon rescuing Texans stranded by the Hurricane Harvey flooding. Photo by Kirk Jackson, used with permission.

Working with Team Rubicon provides that feeling of community so many veterans miss once they return to civilian life.

It also reminds veterans that they have so much to offer after leaving the military. The organization reports that 78% of participating veterans who were previously deployed say they've developed a greater sense of purpose.

One veteran, Richard Bly, had been struggling with symptoms of PTSD before he joined Team Rubicon. Now he says his disaster relief work has helped him step outside of his comfort zone. Today he’s shaking the hands of people whose homes he helped rebuild, and making eye contact with them — something PTSD had previously made difficult.

“Homeowners thank us, and it’s great,” Bly wrote of his experience, “but the unspoken thing about Team Rubicon is most of us get more out of it than we give, even if we show up and give our all, day after day.”

Team Rubicon in Texas after Hurricane Harvey. Photo by Jeremy Hinen, used with permission.

And by supporting efforts like Team Rubicon, civilians can also help veterans make healthy transitions back into nonmilitary society.

For Wood, that lifelong vision of helping others never has to end. He's grown up to be the helpful, courageous man that his 7-year-old self once dreamed of becoming.

Salute those who serve by donating at Macy's to organizations that support veteran and military families from June 28th — July 8th.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

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We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


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via Tod Perry

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