Episode 395 Meghan Richards Serving Those Who Serve Through Care Packages Transcript

This transcript is from episode 395 with guest Meghan Richards.

Scott DeLuzio: [00:00:00] Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast where we are focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community. Whether you’re a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or a family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio, and now let’s get on with the show.

Hey everybody, welcome back to Drive On. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio, and today my guest is Megan Richards, who is an army combat veteran and the executive director of Packages from Home. Packages from Home serves active duty U. S. military members stationed or deployed overseas to include military working dogs and military canine teams, as well as Homeless, transitioning, and at risk veterans by providing them with requested food, hygiene, and internet entertainment items to boost morale [00:01:00] and quality of life.

So we’ll talk more about packages for, from home in just a minute. But first I want to welcome you to the show, Megan. I’m really glad to have you here.

Meghan Richards: Thank you, Scott. Really excited to be here today. Um, really cool that we could link up, and um, I’m excited to, to talk about how we can help veterans and, and what we do at Packages from Home.

Scott DeLuzio: sounds great. Yeah. And I’m, I’m looking forward to learning more about it too. You know, before every episode I do, um, a little bit of research on either the guest or the organization or both. Um, and I joke with my wife when, when we’re, uh, talking about like what I do and I’m like, Oh yeah, I’m just stalking my guest.

I’m, you know, doing a little internet stalking and that type of stuff. Trying to find out a little bit more about, you know, what, What everyone does, but it’s, you know, all, all fun and everything there. So, um, I guess maybe to start off, can you talk a little bit about your time serving in the army? Um, you know, what, what got you into the [00:02:00] military?

What were maybe some of the highlights and challenges maybe that you experienced during your service?

Meghan Richards: Yeah, of course. Um, and, uh, thank you for the opportunity. So, um, I come from, I would say that I come from a military family. I’m an Air Force brat. My father was an F 16 pilot. He now flies for Southwest. My grandfather before him was also an Air Force pilot. My uncle, same thing. Great uncle, same thing. As well as my brother.

My brother was a pilot in the Air Force. So, huge military presence in our family. Um I myself never thought that I would find myself in the military. If you would have asked high school Megan, I definitely would have told you really anything [00:03:00] other than that. Maybe lawyer was very argumentative. Um, so it was a surprise to all of us, me most of all, um, when I joined the army.

Kind of straight out of high school there. So, um, I ended up, uh, choosing the profession of healthcare specialist at the time, I believe it was, uh, 91, 91 whiskey, 91 bravo. And then it changed to 91 whiskey. Now it’s a 68 whiskey. I’m not sure, uh, or it was when I got out, but so I, I knew it when I joined to be the profession of, of healthcare specialists, um, and I had heard the term combat medic thrown around here and there, uh, more so in basic training.

Um, but I didn’t quite know how applicable that was to, to myself personally. And so, um, you [00:04:00] know, we, we got to AIT and I could not find the, the, uh, formation for healthcare specialists. They just pointed me in the same direction as all the other combat medics. So, um, I found myself. With that realization, uh, again, I was 19, very young, uh, very impressionable, very much believed what my recruiter told me.

And we all know what kind of trouble that can get you into, right?

Scott DeLuzio: I was going to say that smells like a recruiter just painting a pretty picture for you and not being entirely truthful. I’m not saying that he lied, but maybe omitted some details.

Meghan Richards: We can say it. He, he definitely did lie. I mean, there’s a, we can get, I mean, I could spend an hour talking about the, the tales he spun about what my military experience would be like and how far from the truth that ended up actually being like, um, but suffice to say, I figured out, figured it [00:05:00] out pretty quickly after I got to my first duty station was handed a packing list immediately for Iraq.

Um, this was 2000. So I joined in 2005. Um, Kind of at the height of the Iraq war, I would say. Um, my father had done a deployment or two to the Middle East already, maybe three. Um, and so I joined as a, as a healthcare specialist, as a combat medic, um, thinking, you know, okay, well, the, at least I can go over there and help people in uniform, like my father, like those who are, um, You know, the folks in my family who serve, um, and people like them.

So that’s actually what ended up motivating me to join. Um, and in that capacity, I ended up, uh, at Fort Hood, Fort Cavazos now, um, in, uh, uh, [00:06:00] Hill Country, Texas. And then. Uh, was part of fourth id and then, uh, ended up transferring over to First Calvary Division and deploying with them twice, uh, once to, uh, Buba Iraq, uh, and Fab Warhorse in 2006, and then in, again in 2000 and I believe eight, uh, to Misso Iraq.

Um, so yeah, that’s. The rundown of my, my military experience.

Scott DeLuzio: Awesome. And I always like hearing how people, you know, get from what they were to what they became and kind of the path that they took. And it’s interesting because a lot of times you do hear those recruiter stories where they aren’t 100 percent truthful. I’m not gonna, Get in trouble by saying that they straight up lie or anything.

Um, you know, it, it’s

Meghan Richards: My experience is my experience.

Scott DeLuzio: There [00:07:00] it is.

Meghan Richards: for the whole, there you

Scott DeLuzio: It’s not, it’s not all recruiters. So if you, if you’re out there and you’re thinking about joining the military, you know, they’re not all bad. They’re not all going to lie to you, right? Um, no, just, we like to, Joke about that

Meghan Richards: Dig in, ask

Scott DeLuzio: you get that.

Exactly. Ask a lot of questions. Find out what you, um, what you’re going to be doing specifically and find out more about the job. They have. Information on all of that stuff for all the jobs. So definitely ask questions and figure that out. So,

Meghan Richards: And YouTube, the YouTube, TikTok, they’ve got people, you know, with, Those high definition cameras in their pockets that are documenting these things. So you can really see like a day in the life of kind of any profession in the

Scott DeLuzio: right. Yeah. And it’s, it’s a lot different now, you know, 20 years later than it was back then when, uh, I, I joined the same year, uh, that you, you did. And, um, there wasn’t a ton of information out there. So, um, [00:08:00] I mean, Internet resources, that is. I mean, they, they had information. It was just, you had to ask for it, but, um, yeah, do your research.

Um, so anyways, so you deployed, uh, to Iraq, uh, a couple of times. Um, how was the deployment for you? And you were a medic throughout the, you know, all of this time. You didn’t, you know, change your MOS or anything. So, um, how was, how was that deployment or those deployments for you? And, uh, you know, kind of what were your experiences?

Meghan Richards: Yeah. Um, great question. So my first deployment, I mean, I feel like every deployment is different, you know, um, every unit’s different. Every deployment’s different. Even going back to the same place can be vastly different. But, um, so my first deployment, um, was pretty rough, pretty high op tempo. Um, I believe we ended up losing 118. [00:09:00] U. S. service members from our brigade. Um, and that doesn’t, you know, uh, touch the number of civilians and third country nationals, um, that were involved as well, or, uh, coalition forces. So, um, it was definitely, you know, a learning experience. It was definitely intense. Um, some people ask me, you know, what it was like.

And I, uh, you know, I like, I like to tell them it was the worst of times. It was. The best of times, right? It was both extremes, you know, it was dead quiet, sitting there waiting for something to happen, you know, joking around with your buddies, shooting this, you know, um,

Scott DeLuzio: you’re good.

Meghan Richards: um, you know, and then it was being in the most [00:10:00] chaotic situation you could dream of, you know, in your life.

So, um, but all in all, I mean, what we did out there, I was, um. As part of, so I was in the 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, so we kind of had a little bit of, of everything as far as MOSs, um, so one of our taskings, as one of eight medics in that battalion, we shared a few different taskings, um, so one of those was, Sick call as well as like medical attention at the brigade detainee internment facility, the B Diff that we’d call for short.

Um, so anywhere where we would take detainees, the jail, basically. Um, so anytime we get a detainee, we’re, you know, we’re very, U. S. forces are very considerate, and we try to make sure [00:11:00] that, you know, the letter of the law is being followed as far as Geneva Convention, so we are, um, doing medical exams when they’re in processed, you know, that includes asking about any sort of abuse, documenting any of that, making sure that’s not happening, um, as well as when they out process, when they leave our facility, as well as any time before they’re interrogated or after, and, um, Sitcall twice a day, whereas like, we would only give U.

S. service members sitcall one time, one time a day. So, you know, I’m not saying it’s, it’s cushy to be in jail, but You know, on the medical side of things, they were taken care of, well taken care of. Um, so that was one tasking that we shared for the, for the, uh, battalion medics. And then, uh, we had two kind of convoy groups that we needed to provide medics for.

Um, the one that I, you know, was tasked to, was the, uh, Provincial Reconstruction Team. So the [00:12:00] person, personnel security detail for the Provincial Reconstruction Team, um, of the Diyala Province. So that is the, that state that we were in, Bacuba being the capital city of that, um, state. So they were that hearts and minds kind of rebuild the infrastructure, you know, multi, agency teams of plainclothes folks, you know, day in and day out going, you know, off the base meeting with, um, you know, IP, MP, uh, IPIAs, um, you know, the Iraqi police, Iraqi army, or meeting with the Iraqi government, uh, or any type of project that we were trying to get done, like getting the.

The water up and running again, getting the electricity up and running, you know, visiting a hospital, um, whatever was applicable to what we were doing at that point in time. [00:13:00] So, um, I was the sole, when I was tasked with, with that tasking, you know, we shared it amongst, uh, I think three different folks, that particular one, um, we would, uh, be the only medic amongst, The whole team.

So we have the responsibility for, for all those folks. Um, and that was a really cool experience, uh, because there was, you know, a lot of diplomacy happening, a lot of, you know, being able to sit in rooms where decisions are being made at a very high level and, you know, not really having input into them, but, you know, being a fly on the wall, drinking chai, right? that sugar overload.

Scott DeLuzio: Sure.

Meghan Richards: Yeah. Um, so. Yeah, so that was one of the taskings. And then the other one was, um, we also had, uh, our PA, which was our officer over those eight medics. He [00:14:00] was at that local TMC that was on Fab War Horse. Um, and so we would help him out with sick call in the mornings for our, uh, Italian.

And then, you know, um, we also had a radio to be available for any traumas that were coming in since we were pretty, um, highly trained up since we were going on the convoys outside the wire. We were pretty heavily trained in tactical. Casualty combat care to a level where, you know, if there’s something that happened and we were on the FOB, they were calling us into the trauma room to help assist with, with anything.

And that, that was a pretty frequent occurrence. Um, lots of different mass cows and, um, different situations like that. So pretty crazy first deployment all in all. Yeah.

Scott DeLuzio: So, it sounds like it, first off, uh, that, that’s a lot of tasks and, and all of them, as you’re telling about what they are, I’m, I’m like, that’s a lot of responsibility, especially for one person going outside the wire [00:15:00] with, uh, you know, a whole team of people who You know, are prone to getting injuries or, you know, other things could be happening to them.

Uh, that’s all on you. So that’s, that’s a lot. Um, especially as a young soldier going out there, um, you know, dealing with, uh, all of that stuff that, that is a lot. And I, I know the medics that we had, a lot of them were on the younger side too. And, um, you know, just think like, Yeah, it was usually we just rolled out with one medic and if anything happened to, you know, one or more people that that was on them, you know,

Meghan Richards: Yeah. You better hope they’re trained.

Scott DeLuzio: yeah, yeah.

And, and they were, you know,

Meghan Richards: yeah, exactly. Yeah. I mean, you’re trusting them with your, with your life, but I mean, luckily we didn’t have anything happen too crazy, too crazy injury wise on the PRT and PSC team. And, um, we had really great [00:16:00] leadership making sure, you know, that we were going out after route clearance each time.

Um, You know, I’m not going to say that nothing ever went down, but we didn’t deal with anything too, uh, too bad on the injury side. Thank God. Um, but yeah, definitely in the trauma room, saw a lot, a lot of that there, but, um, a really, really amazing experience. Um, I mean, not amazing in a great way, just, you know, Out of the, out of the ordinary.


Scott DeLuzio: right. You wouldn’t get this

Meghan Richards: in that way.

Scott DeLuzio: any other way, right? Like it’s, it’s not a, uh, You know, college internship where you, you go and drive around Iraq and look for, you know, opportunities to, uh, do all this stuff. Like that’s just not what happens. So, um, now another deployment related, uh, question, kind of as a segue here.

Um, Were there any particular items or care package, uh, you know, [00:17:00] contents and things like that, that you look forward to receiving during your deployment?

Meghan Richards: Oh, definitely. I mean, look, the army is good at feeding people, okay? Like, we’ve got it down to a science. If you’re gonna fight a war for us, we’re gonna make sure you’re fed. So, like, I’m not gonna say I wasn’t fed. But I am just a chocoholic, like, if I can’t get a hold of some Nutella, you know, like, I’m gonna be fiendin a little bit.

Um, so my mom, I remember her specifically sending me jars of Nutella at a time and, um, yeah, I shamelessly, I ate those suckers with a spoon, I ate it with a spoon right out of the jar. Like, yeah.

Scott DeLuzio: I bet. Yeah.

Meghan Richards: It was, and it was so good.

Scott DeLuzio: when you, when you don’t have those comforts from home for an extended period of time and you’re like, I want this now, um, Yeah, you’re going to, you’re going to dig in. Uh, I know when I was deployed, I [00:18:00] was a heavy coffee drinker and the coffee that they had, like the army coffee, it was. It was crap. Um, my wife actually bought me a coffee maker and sent a crap load of, of coffee along with

Meghan Richards: were everybody’s best friend. I

Scott DeLuzio: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Everybody loved it. And I, in Afghanistan, I didn’t care how hot it got. We were there in the summer and it got. Super, super hot. Um, I’d always have, she gave me like a, a mug, kind of like, kind of like one of the, you know, uh, coffee mug kind of things, not, um, like a travel kind of mug.

Um, I’d be out there standing in the, you know, 115 degree heat and drinking hot coffee because that’s just what I did. And so everyone knew I had coffee and I, I. I was more than happy to share it with, with folks too, because my wife sent way more than I could possibly, way more than I should drink anyway.

So let’s put it that way.

Meghan Richards: Keeping [00:19:00] you fueled. I love it. That’s exactly how I think about care packages. Not just, not just literally, but you know, they keep you going. I really liked, I’m sorry.

Scott DeLuzio: No, go ahead. Go ahead.

Meghan Richards: Oh, um, I was just going to say that one of the other things I just can’t. I have to make sure to mention this. One of the other things that I loved getting in care packages was like seasonal items, like, like a small Christmas tree, um, at one point and decorations, like just really tiny ones, you know, just keeping, keeping up with the folks back home, I guess,

Scott DeLuzio: One of the guys in our unit. Got a small bag of grass seed and some soil. And we, we, yeah, it sounds stupid, right? But we had this little thing, probably no, no bigger than, I don’t know, like a baking, uh, tray kind of thing, like a nine by 13 baking tray filled some soil in there, put the grass [00:20:00] that he wanted to feel grass between like under his feet.

He wanted to just like walk on grass. So we grew grass under there and. We had grass, um, and there was nothing green like with for miles around us. And this was like the one little patch. And, you know, we had like a, a little American flag that we would put in it. It’s like, this is, this is America and we brought it back.

We claimed it, you know? Um, so, so, you know, all those kinds of things, it’s just like the creature comfort, comforts, the things that you. You miss from home that you just want to have when, um, when you’re away from home for an extended period of time and, and I don’t care if it’s, you know, three, six, nine, 12, 18 month deployments.

I don’t care how long it is. Um, at some point you’re missing home. Um, it could just be a couple of weeks into it. And, um, having those little things, it’s just in my mind anyways, it was just a, a nice. [00:21:00] Nice way to, uh, remind you of home and, and make it just a little bit easier. Right.

Meghan Richards: Yeah. And it’s always nice to feel like some, like you’re being remembered. Like I think it’s easy when you’re over there, especially like, you know, considering My experience is sometimes it was hard, like to, let’s say, you know, help at a mask house situation and then, you know, go into the chow hall and all you see on the TVs are, uh, you know, Anna Nicole Smith being blasted, right?

Like on the, on the TVs or whatever it is, whatever’s hot at the moment, but it’s not the story of the struggle of you and your friends over there in Iraq necessarily, like all the time. And not to say that it’s not covered, but I think, you know, It can start to feel like that. Um, like you’re being forgotten and like life is [00:22:00] going on without you.

So just like having that little, that little package that you can pick up that letter that you can go to the mail room and get, and there’s something for you. Like, it’s like looking under the Christmas tree. It like totally is that Christmas morning feeling of like, is there something for me? You know?

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah,

Meghan Richards: So

Scott DeLuzio: yeah, I got that, that kind of thing all the time. And, and my wife was great. She sent packages all the time and other family too. I don’t want to, you know, discount them as well. But I, I was getting packages all the time. And, and a few guys that I served with, they, Didn’t get anything. They didn’t really have anyone who would, would send them anything.

So, uh, it got to the point where I was getting so much stuff. I was like, here, just like, take this. Like, I, I don’t need all this stuff. Like, this is your, this is your mail call now. Just take the package and go with it. You know? Um, that was my, you know, kind of poor attempt at a segue into talking about packages from home.[00:23:00]

Um, tell us about the

Meghan Richards: great. I loved it. Of

Scott DeLuzio: Tell us about the organization and the mission and, uh, you know, kind of where it came from and what, what got you into the role that you’re in now?

Meghan Richards: course. So, um, Scott, it’s very similar to kind of what you just said, which is funny. Um, so that’s a great segue. Uh, at,

Scott DeLuzio: you I did my

Meghan Richards: pack it. Yeah, there you go. Perfect. So, um, packages from home was started in 2004 by an army mom, Kathleen Lewis. Her son was deployed to Iraq for the first time after having joined the U.

S. Army infantry, literally, uh, in the day after 9 11, um, because of 9 11. So, um, he found himself in Iraq for the first time in 2004 and she found herself sending him care packages for the first time. And just like you said, um, you know, there are people that have those Right, those moms, those moms or those wives that you can [00:24:00] always count on to be sending those packages regularly, you know, shout out to my aunt Suzanne.

I can’t leave her out for sure. Like, she sent me so many, like, homemade cookies that we always look forward to, forward to me and my roommates. Um, and it’s cool that you mentioned the sharing thing too, because that’s definitely something we hear a lot is folks sharing care packages, um, amongst each other.

But, um, so Kathleen. Was sending all these care packages to her son, Christian, in Iraq. And, uh, Christian was like, mom, I’m, you’re actually sending me like too much stuff. Some people over here are not getting anything at all. And, um, so she’s like, Christian, that like, that’s not a problem. I’m not going to send you less.

I’m going to send you more. Right. And from there, packages from home was born. She rallied, you know, her troops back home, the community, um, to send It started in her garage, grew from there to a donated space, um, to [00:25:00] now, you know, where we, where our location is, uh, in Glendale. Um, so it’s become something, you know, bigger than what it was.

I know, um, this is our 20th year in operation in 2024, um, and although we’re not in any active conflicts currently, we still have about Uh, this is actually something shocking that everybody is surprised to find out, myself included. We still have about 190, 000 US military members in over 176 countries worldwide.

And that’s actually, um, pardon me, that’s actually, um, information that you can find for yourself. On the internet, if you Google the DoD Force Strength Report, you know, it’ll come up with an Excel spreadsheet and, um, you can add those numbers up for yourself and see, [00:26:00] see there. Um, you know, it’s not giving away any classified information, but you can definitely verify that there is, what we’re saying is true.

There is a need for, um, care packages for service members overseas still, even though we are not in any active conflicts. Um, we still get about 50 requests a day. Um, and we get them from all over the place, um, a lot from the Middle East still, many from naval ships, uh, but really you name it and we send care packages to a mil to a U.

S. military base. There. Um, so Africa, Italy, Japan, um, really anywhere that you can think of.

Scott DeLuzio: So you get about, you said about 50 requests a day. Are you able to.

Meghan Richards: On, on average. Yes.

Scott DeLuzio: Are you able to fill all 50 of those requests, uh, you know, as they are coming in, is that [00:27:00] something you

Meghan Richards: we have actually, we have actually been so fortunate to, um, be, um, You know, be able to receive so many generous donations from the community and from grants and, and corporate support, um, to be able to fund 100 percent of the requests that we, we receive. Now, we, we say we love special requests. We definitely do, and we do our best to accommodate those.

Sometimes, you know, it’s not an exact match, but we are, uh, each request is, um, processed and, uh, fulfilled.

Scott DeLuzio: That’s awesome.

Meghan Richards: we’re, we’re very proud of that. Yeah,

Scott DeLuzio: Cause I, I just did the quick math and I’m like, that’s, that’s about 18, 000, uh, care packages a year. Um, and as you, as you do the math, like, like 50, okay, I can, I can figure out 50, but then tomorrow there’s going to be another 50 and then another and another, you know, You know, so yeah, that adds up really quickly and, um, and [00:28:00] it’s. It’s more than just, uh, you know, the, the box that it’s sent in, it’s the, um, you know, whatever the items are that are, are being shipped over there, but it’s also, um, you know, the postage and, and all this other stuff that goes into it. It’s,

Meghan Richards: There’s a lot.

Scott DeLuzio: right?

Meghan Richards: Yeah, no, it certainly isn’t. And it’s actually just the postage alone. I mean, leaving out recent inflation on, you know, food products and whatnot. But just, uh, just when we, when we’re talking about postage, um, that itself has increased over 400 times since 400%, I’m sorry, since we started in 2004, so huge, a huge increase.

Um, A lot of people think that care packages to the military are free, um, or should be free. I support that they should, should be, but you know, brass tacks is that they are not. So we do have to [00:29:00] fundraise, you know, for that gap. And just like you said, we’re intaking donated products. So we, you know, those are individual donations that we have to, you know, coalesce and make sure that we quality control.

So it really does take, like you said, a huge workforce. And a lot of resources to be able to get this done. Um, we definitely do it the most efficient way possible. Um, we’re really proud about that, but it, it definitely just like, you know, learning the back end of the podcast stuff. There’s a lot that go, that goes into it that people don’t really see.

Scott DeLuzio: I’m sure. Yeah. Um, now are these, um, Uh, care packages, I know you mentioned like special requests, but are they for the most part, like a one size fits all, like you get this package kind of thing or are they customizable? How, how does that work?

Meghan Richards: Yeah. So that’s a great question. Um, We also like to say that we pack in pairs because we care. So, what that means is that generally each [00:30:00] person on our list has the opportunity to select food and or hygiene care packages. So, um, a crucial part of our process is that in making sure that these care packages are a thoughtful gift to our service members.

We wanna make sure it’s not just a bunch of stuff thrown in a box, um, without any, any thought or care. Um, so what that means is that from the time that items are donated, donated to us. Um, to the point in time that they’re shipped out, they are all kept separately, food and hygiene items, because nobody likes cookies and crackers that, that taste like soap, right?

Um, so that Irish Spring, I’m sure even just people hearing it, they can smell it right now, right? So we don’t, we don’t want to, we don’t want to taste it. I mean, I will. If I’m hungry enough, right? Like hunger is, is the best spice, they say. And we were talking about that Nutella jar earlier, but [00:31:00] you know, I would do it if I was in a pinch, but it’s not preferable, right?

Scott DeLuzio: exactly. It’s not, that’s not what you, you open up the package and you’re all excited. Like, Oh yeah, someone sent me something. And it’s like, this tastes like crap. I don’t want this. You should have not sent it.

Meghan Richards: Yeah, so that can be a little disappointing, but um, so we make sure to avoid that by separating our food and hygiene. We pack in pairs because we care, so they have the opportunity on our request form. I mean, they might be good because there’s so many, you know, like I said, 190, 000 U. S.

service members overseas. Um, I mean, and while that’s a small fraction of the actual, like, military, uh, military, I don’t know why I said it so weird. Um, yeah. There’s so many different experiences, jobs, people, you know, it really is a little swath of, right, America. Um, so much diversity there. So like you’re going to have so many different preferences and needs, right?

Some people might not have a PX or a BX where they’re [00:32:00] at. Some people might have one that’s, um, full of things. So they’re just asking for, for that one specific item that they can’t find. Um, You know, whereas other people might have, uh, basically nothing and, and need, um, all of it, food and hygiene. So they have the option to pick, uh, whether they want what they want. Um, and that helps us reduce any sort of waste and make sure that we’re, you know, being proper stewards of, you know, Donor dollars.

Scott DeLuzio: So in addition to the, the service members, the, the, the people service members, you also service the canines, uh, as well, right. As far as sending items that they may need, uh, through some of your programs. Right.

Meghan Richards: Exactly. Yes. We have an initiative, a project, um, through Packages from Home that is called Bones from Home. So that program sends this, [00:33:00] those same food hygiene entertainment items, but for our furry canine friends, um, who are serving. So those service members, uh, as we’re calling them, have their own rank and, um, Um, but unfortunately, their, their handlers don’t have a budget for extra toys or, you know, all those splurge things that might be necessary to make sure that that animal is getting the proper enrichment, um, and development that it needs to do its very important job.

So, uh, it’s kind of like the teacher situation, right? Um, They might have to dip into their own pockets to go a little bit above and beyond, uh, if that’s what they’re trying to do. So we like to bridge that gap and, and send those items as well. So if they sign up and, uh, just click the box that they are a canine handler, put in their, um, uh, their partner’s name and rank, and we will send out a canine care package to them as well.

Scott DeLuzio: Excellent. That’s awesome. [00:34:00] Um, now in addition to the packages that you guys send, um, are there any other programs that you have as far as supporting the military, um, through, through other, uh, programs that you have?

Meghan Richards: Yeah, we do. Um, so from time to time, we’ll have different things that, um, Might be like a for a short period of time. Um, so like in the past, um, we’ve done a lot of different like entertainment things like sporting events, um, or we’ve done sporting events for veterans or we’ve done, um, like during COVID, we did like a drive, drive up, uh, grocery, fresh grocery box.

Um, delivery, so we kind of try to tune into the needs of like the veteran community where we are, um, to provide what’s needed at that point in time. Uh, and we do that through partnering with our Packages for Hope partners, and that’s [00:35:00] specifically like our veteran part of the initiative. Um, so yes, there’s, there’s kind of two ways that we help out veterans, um, two main ways.

One is through stand ups or stand downs. Those are resource fairs that are across the country. Um, this past, um, About two weeks ago, we had the largest one in the country is actually the Maricopa County standout, um, here at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum put on by the, um, Arizona, um, Housing Coalition. So, uh, we are always very happy to be there serving veterans.

I think we gave out about a lot, uh, 11, no, sorry, 11, 000 pounds of food hygiene

Scott DeLuzio: Oh, wow.

Meghan Richards: Entertainment items to veterans at the stand down. Um, so there’s events like that throughout the country and then [00:36:00] also locally, um, in different counties and in different cities that we go to, um, to provide tangible supplies, these actually, these veteran care packages to the veterans. And then we also have, um, the other side of it where once you become a HOPE partner with us, these are for other charities that serve veterans directly, they can partner with us to become a HOPE partner. And then that allows them to shop our warehouse. For whatever items they need for an event, um, for instance, we recently, we partnered the last two years, um, with Irreverent Warriors.

I don’t know if you’ve heard of them. So we’ve partnered with them the last two years and provided snacks and, um, kind of goodie bag items, sunscreen, beverages for, um, veterans who are doing that, uh, the hike in Phoenix, as well as, um, [00:37:00] Las Vegas. And then I think we supported in San Diego as well. Um, so being able to partner with organizations like that who serve veterans directly and being able to provide the resources that we have for them is another way that we partner.

And then I’m most excited to tell you about This last way, I said there were two main ways, but there are two main ways and then there’s this last third option as well. So this is the packages from home military trauma support group. Um, this is a group that gets together every Monday, excluding federal holidays, um, for dinner, uh, a space to share military experiences, and, um, to receive peer to peer support regarding, um, military trauma and transitioning, um, to the civilian world.

world. So that’s open to veterans and active duty. We’ve had some folks, um, [00:38:00] who are active duty that are now veterans who attended both as active duty and as veterans. So you’re welcome to do that. We also have a zoom, um, portion available for folks who cannot, cannot, or do not want to attend in person. Um, and the way to get involved with that would be to just email us at info at packages from home.

org and let us know that you’re interested in the military trauma support group. And then we’ll have somebody from the group reach out to you, uh, with more details and, uh, be able to make sure that that’s a good fit. And, um, then you are invited to attend. So that’s a really cool, um, resource that we’ve been able to provide.

And then on top of that, with that group, we do social events that are paid for by packages from home. Um. We, one year we did, we rented out a theater and did a showing of, I think it was a Spider Man movie, so [00:39:00] everybody could bring their families, and we, everybody got a gift, and, um, there was food provided, so we really like to take care of our veterans, um, we, we actually employ a lot of veterans here, we You Received the only federal hiring award for veterans, um, hire vets two years in a row.

So also proud of that, of that as well. But

Scott DeLuzio: That’s awesome. And I like how it’s branched out beyond just the packages. And I, I don’t say just like. It’s a small thing because that’s that is a huge part of what you do. And there’s, uh, as we were talking about, there’s a lot of packages that go out and there’s are a lot of people, um, the, you know, either deployed or stationed overseas who, uh, are, Looking for those little pieces of home, uh, that brighten their day.

And, um, you know, like you said, uh, you know, those hard to find items, those [00:40:00] things that you maybe just can’t find because you don’t have a PX or anything like that nearby, um, and, or even if you do, it’s just, they don’t stock it. So, um, you know, getting that little bit of, uh, Just a little piece of home is great.

Um, but also, uh, you mentioned the Military, uh, Trauma Support Group. Um, I’ve found that with veterans that I’ve talked to through this show, or other events and places that I’ve gone to, um, first you may have that, that kind of gut feel like, ah, I don’t want to go talk to a bunch of people or whatever that that’s not for me or whatever.

But once when you get involved and you start talking to these people, you realize you got a heck of a lot in common and it’s. It’s kind of cool how quickly veterans especially, uh, find that connection and just start opening up to each other. And, um, you know, I’ve talked to [00:41:00] other people who are from other veteran type organizations and they’re They’ve had very similar experiences where, um, you know, it, there’s a lot of, uh, healing that goes on when you start to find that camaraderie and find your, your people again.


Meghan Richards: yeah, exactly. You’re so right. And it’s, it’s amazing to be able to provide that space. We have a, um, a really amazing group of veterans as well. They are very welcoming. It’s not restricted to combat veterans. Um, it truly is open to all active duty, all, um, veterans, all walks of life, male and female. Um, so yeah, it’s, we’re, we’re excited to be able to offer that and, and hope to really just expand that in, in the future and be able to offer it in more locations.

Scott DeLuzio: Awesome. Yeah. And, and so it’s currently just in, in one location plus the zoom, uh, [00:42:00] connection too. Right. So if you wanted to, yeah, connect virtually, you could do that as well. Right.

Meghan Richards: Exactly.

Scott DeLuzio: Perfect. Awesome. So for. Anybody who might be interested in, uh, either getting involved with like the, the trauma support group or, um, maybe who want to make a donation or to send a package overseas to somebody, how, what’s the process like and, and where can people go to find out more information for all of that?

Meghan Richards: Perfect. Um, so the first place I’m going to say would be best to look would be our website www. packagesfromhome. org. You can tell I’m a millennial because I said www. Packagesfromhome. org. Um, I, we do have some kind of text to information as well. Something that we’re looking for right now [00:43:00] is, is our people to volunteer and help out.

Um, we’re really looking to grow our volunteer force. Um, so if you have extra time and you would like to get involved with Packages from Home, you can text volunteer to 844 615 0055. And that’s volunteer. Again, that’s 844 615 0055. And I have QR codes for, for all these as well that I can give you. Um, that will

Scott DeLuzio: I’ll put all of that. Oh, good.

Meghan Richards: so that will get you the link to our volunteer application for our regular volunteer positions. Um, if you want to just come in one day and, and volunteer, you’re welcome to do that. That is Um, our volunteer [00:44:00] calendar is at packagesfromhome. org backslash volunteer. And that will get you that public volunteering calendar.

But again, like I said, right now we’re trying to build up our volunteer workforce, so we do have some regular volunteer positions. So maybe if you’re retired, disabled, or just have some time, extra time on your hands, um, we would welcome that. For you to apply to be a volunteer at Packages From Home and that would be the phone number I gave you and you would text volunteer to that phone number.

It will give you the link for our volunteer application and it will list out there all of the jobs that we have available. Uh, that’s like volunteer driver to be able to pick up items from drop sites or, um, pick up donations or deliver items. for events. Uh, we also have, um, packing party, uh, a need for folks for our packing party army, [00:45:00] and that would be people who want to help out, uh, at community events that we have.

Uh, then we also have core volunteers who volunteer here in the warehouse regularly, um, and then volunteer leadership positions as well. So we’d love to have you on the team. So go ahead and submit your application. And we will be in contact with you.

Scott DeLuzio: Wonderful. And I’ll have, uh, the, the links that you gave. I’ll have all that in the show notes and the, uh, phone number that people can text. I’ll put that in the show notes as well, uh, so that they can find where to go to, to get more information. Um, awesome, uh, uh, organization. Uh, the, the work that you guys do, I think, uh, extends beyond, uh, you know, the care packages and it’s, uh, really It’s really helpful, like you said, to, uh, just put a smile on someone’s face [00:46:00] when they, they open up those packages and, and think, you know, someone, Someone actually cared enough to take the time to send the package to put all the stuff together, package it up, bring it to the post office, ship it out, all that kind of stuff.

Someone actually cared enough. And, uh, you know, it just makes you feel like you’re not forgotten, like you said. Um, so it’s, it’s pretty awesome. Um, the type of work that you guys are doing. So, um, before we wrap this episode up, uh, I always like to. And the episodes with a little bit of humor, uh, just some, some way to put a smile on people’s faces.

And so I, I love doing a segment that I call, is it service connected, uh, with whenever I have, whenever I have another veteran on the show, uh, I love doing this segment because, uh, we usually can get a good laugh out of it. And so it, you can probably imagine what the segments are like just by based on the name of it, but it’s kind of like America’s [00:47:00] funniest home videos.

But. Military edition, someone doing something stupid, falling down, getting hurt, something like that. Uh, nothing too serious, but, um, it, it usually gets a pretty good laugh. So I’m going to, I’m going to share my screen with you so you can see this video here and, um, for the audio only listeners, I’ll try to describe it as best as I can.

Your best bet, go on YouTube and check out the video or, or Twitter or X, whatever they, whatever the kids are calling it these days. Um, um. So right now we look like we got a bunch of guys standing around some artillery or something like that, and it’s probably not going to end very well for whoever is in this video, but well, it’s not looking great.

We’ll, we’ll see what goes on. So let me hit play here. Okay. He’s loading it, popping it in, getting ready to close it up and he just gets slammed in the gut with the [00:48:00] recoil.

Meghan Richards: back blast area was not

Scott DeLuzio: backblast area definitely not cleared, um, and he went flying. That was, uh, I think that, that’s kind of what I would imagine if I was, like, in the ring with Mike Tyson or something, like how I would go

Meghan Richards: Oh my gosh.

Scott DeLuzio: if I got hit by that guy.

Um, but this was, yeah, pretty,

Meghan Richards: Yeah, that was a gut punch.

Scott DeLuzio: Pretty bad. Yeah. Yeah. I would definitely say service connected on that one. That, that guy’s getting some sort of disability from,

Meghan Richards: Yeah. If I was his medic, I would write it up.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. First off, get that written up.

Meghan Richards: bleeding.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. Internal bleeding. Um, even though it didn’t hit him in the head, I got to imagine as he was flying backwards, he probably hit his head on something.

There’s probably a head injury in there somewhere.

Meghan Richards: Oh, definitely. Definitely a TBI.

Scott DeLuzio: yeah. So, uh, [00:49:00] At the absolute minimum, his ego is bruised forever, and, uh, he’ll never leave, he’ll never live that one down. So, um, anyways, thank you again so much for taking the time to come on, uh, sharing a little bit about your background and your story, um, which, which I, uh, appreciate.

Appreciate you opening up and sharing your, your background. Um, but also, uh, for all the work that you guys are doing at Packages From Home and, uh, all the work that you’re doing to help the, not only the currently serving, but also the veteran community. So, thank you.

Meghan Richards: Thank you so much, Scott, for, for giving us this opportunity. And, um, it was great chatting with you.

Scott DeLuzio: Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to support the show, please check out Scott’s book, Surviving Son on Amazon. All of the sales from that book go directly back into this podcast and work to help veterans in need. You can also follow the Drive On Podcast on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, [00:50:00] YouTube, and wherever you listen to podcasts.

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