Several years ago the Mission Beach Women’s Club’s Sarah Mattinson was pondering what the club membership might do to help military personnel here. The idea initially was a gift box of goodies to send overseas to a Marine whose wife belonged to the club. He was doing his third tour in Afghanistan.
That gift was so well received that the initial goodwill gesture blossomed into a far more ambitious initiative. After having focused on enlisted men for a couple of years, the club made a decision that it should look at gifting active military personnel who are often overlooked — enlisted women, ages 18 to 25. It made sense that a women’s club would support young women, particularly when it appeared no one else was doing the kind of charitable giving the club was interested in pursuing.
“A lot of women don’t actually get care packages when they’re overseas. So being a women’s club, we thought that would fit in,” Mattinson said.
And thus SOS –Support Our Servicewomen — was born. The gifts they sent were a potpourri of surprises. From tampons to teddy bears, no gift box was the same. They were filled with books, magazines, games, snacks, and other surprises. Each was wrapped with care to ship to the women over the holidays.
What began in 2010 with 76 boxes and $805 raised for shipping has grown to 241 boxes and $10,277 raised to fill the boxes and ship them.
“The women’s clubhouse on Santa Clara Place in Mission Beach is rented out for different events,” said long-time member Nancy Person. “And that’s how we earn the majority of our income that we give away. We don’t keep anything except what we need for repairs and maintenance. The rest goes to the club’s philanthropic endeavors.”
The club discovered early on how expensive it was to ship gifts to these young women all across the U.S. and throughout the world. Those costs club member Mattinson believes is why many of the women never get gifts from home. She added they are thankful for another nonprofit they learned about — shipthrifty.com.
Using this service the club is able to get reduced shipping rates and an important, simplified process to fill out customs forms, which volunteers used to spend hours filling out.
The club is able to run the SOS program effectively, said Person, because “we’ve built a relationship with the chaplains, and some of them are on ships. They help coordinate and distribute the packages when we send them.”
The club also gets some guidance from officials at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot.
“Those are our two main local liaisons,” Person said. “And they provide us with names and addresses of one person who can distribute but very often it’s the chaplain who does this for us.”
The care packages have been showing up in places like on the USS Makin Island, USS Anchorage, USS John P. Mercer, the Warhorse Squadron HMH-465, and to countries like Jordan, Bahrain, Iraq and Italy. Other ships in other years where the care packages were sent included the USS Essex, USS Portland, USS Carl Vinson.
“And two years ago we sent 87 boxes to the USS Abraham Lincoln. It had a female commander at the time. And she wrote us personally a thank you note,” Mattison said with understandable pride.
For the young women receiving the care packages, “it was really treasured and really appreciated,” said Sydney Encinias of San Diego.
She was stationed at Camp As Sayliyah in Doha, Qatar, in 2018 and recalled how the women in her outfit were excited to get the care packages from SOS.
“It was a real pleasant surprise just to feel something from home, like someone cares about you that you’re not forgotten because we were in the middle of nowhere. It’s easy to feel like you are not part of anything anymore,” said Encinias, who left the military in 2020. “The biggest thing that everyone really loved were the fuzzy socks. You’re in your uniform all day and putting on the fuzzy socks made it feel a little bit like home, it felt nice and we felt cared about.”
When Encinias got back to San Diego, she went to the women’s club around Veteran’s Day to “help them pack some boxes and do a little thank you to the people who actually sent us boxes. So it was a nice full circle.”
Support our Servicewomen needs money to buy and ship care packages to send out for the holidays this year. To offer your help, call Nancy Person at (818) 648-1203, or Sarah Mattinson at (619) 829-2600, or go to the club’s website mbwc.org
You might consider a visit to their wish page on Amazon if you prefer helping this way.