Gifts that Give Back: Your Guide to Support and Serve This Season

Posted by Ashley Jones

With the arrival of December, the busiest gift-giving season is just getting warmed up. While you’re checking off your list of holiday preparations this year, consider the opportunity to extend the spirit of giving beyond your immediate circle.

We’ve pulled together a holiday gift guide highlighting some exceptional non-profits that continue to make a lasting impact on education, military families, and the well-being of our nation’s heroes. This season, as you open your heart and wallet, consider gifting something extraordinary—support for organizations that give back to the communities they serve, not just during the holidays but all year round.

CIA Officers Memorial Foundation

In 2001, CIA Officer Mike Spann was killed in Afghanistan, becoming the first American killed in the Global War on Terror following 9/11. As a husband and a father to three small children, this hero’s story sparked an outpouring of compassion and support. Donations for Spann’s family were sent to the CIA, but the agency is prohibited from accepting such offerings. Agency members sought a way to mitigate this problem, ultimately giving way to the creation of the CIA Officers Memorial Foundation.

The foundation ensures that the families of CIA officers who die in the line of duty are provided for. The charity offers educational support for the children and spouses of fallen officers. To date the organization has granted over 11.5 million dollars in scholarships and has supported over 200 dependents of deceased CIA officers.

Wreaths Across America

Another tribute to our nation’s fallen heroes began when Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company in Maine, had a surplus of wreaths approaching the end of the holiday season in 1992. Remembering his boyhood visit to Arlington National Cemetery, he realized he had an opportunity to honor veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. With help from Senator Olympia Snowe, he made arrangements to have his surplus wreaths placed at Arlington.

This wreath laying became an annual tribute and continued quietly for years until a photo of the decorated stones at Arlington gained attraction on the Internet in 2005. The event continued to grow as communities around the nation sought to participate too and in 2007, Wreaths Across America was formed with the mission to remember, honor, and teach. In 2022 alone, over 2.7 million memorial wreaths were laid by the non-profit and its network of volunteers at 3,702 participating locations. This year, National Wreaths Across America Day ceremonies will take place at more than 4,000 locations across the country and abroad on December 16.

EOD Warrior Foundation

Placing their lives in harm’s way, roughly 6,000 individuals serve as Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians. Disarming and disposing of bombs is one of the most dangerous military occupations, but brave service members step up to the daunting task to protect others. When EOD technicians suffer wounds, they endure some of the most severe injuries, spanning loss of limbs, burns, blindness, traumatic brain injury and more.

In an effort to better support this community, the EOD Memorial Foundation and the Wounded EOD Warrior Foundation merged in 2013, forming what is now the EOD Warrior Foundation. The foundation provides financial relief, education, hope and wellness, and EOD Memorial Care to active-duty, retired and veteran EOD Techs and their families, as well as EOD Warriors and family members who have been wounded, ill or injured, and families of the fallen. In 2022, the foundation awarded scholarships to 128 EOD dependents in addition to providing over $400,000 in financial grants to EOD families.

Semper Fi Fund

Looking for a way to help those who protect our freedom, a group of Marine spouses welcomed wounded Marines and Sailors landing at Camp Pendleton, California, back from Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. They organized activities at the hospital, distributed care packages, and arranged travel for families who couldn’t afford airfare. With wounded continuing to arrive in need of their efforts, the Semper Fi Fund was established as a national non-profit in 2004.

Today, the non-profit helps our heroes to recover, transition, and thrive through an array of proven and effective programs. The Semper Fi Fund offers a service member and family support program, a transition program, and an integrative wellness program. The Fund has provided 300 million dollars in assistance across all branches of the Armed Forces and has assisted 31,000 service members. Donations will be matched this year, now through December 31.

Gary Sinise Foundation

Another vital supporter of our service members is Gary Sinise, a longstanding advocate for our nation’s heroes, widely recognized for his portrayal of Lt. Dan Taylor in “Forest Gump.” Looking to expand upon his individual efforts, the Gary Sinise Foundation was established in 2011 “to serve and honor our nation’s defenders, veterans, first responders, their families and those in need by creating and supporting unique programs that entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen and build communities.”

The foundation has several programs that support and empower the military community, including R.I.S.E., which provides home modifications, mobility devices, adapted vehicles, and one of a kind specially adapted smart homes for our most severely wounded veterans. 89 smart homes have been completed, 124 homes have been modified/retrofitted, and 71 specially adapted vehicles have been provided to name a few accomplishments. The foundation also has many vital outreach programs including grants for emergency relief, training, and essential equipment for our firefighters, police, and EMTs.

As we acknowledge these remarkable non-profits, it’s important to recognize that countless other organizations are making a difference in their own ways. This holiday season, consider joining the cause, making a contribution, and spreading joy to those who need it most. Your support can brighten not just the holidays but the lives of those these non-profits tirelessly serve throughout the year.


  • Ashley Jones

    Ashley Jones is ClearedJobs.Net's blog Editor and a cleared job search expert, dedicated to helping security-cleared job seekers and employers navigate job search and recruitment challenges. With in-depth experience assisting cleared job seekers and transitioning military personnel at in-person and virtual Cleared Job Fairs and military base hiring events, Ashley has a deep understanding of the unique needs of the cleared community. She is also the Editor of ClearedJobs.Net's job search podcast, Security Cleared Jobs: Who's Hiring & How.

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This entry was posted on Monday, December 04, 2023 4:00 pm

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