A team of BB&T associates recently gathered with volunteers from Combat Female Veterans Families United to make care packages for women currently deployed in the Middle East with the U.S. military. It was a momentous day for the fledgling organization – it was the first care package event they've hosted.
Since Sandra Robinson's deployment with the U.S. Army National Guard in the early 90s, she has seen the need for organizations devoted specifically to female combat veterans. When she settled in Greensboro, North Carolina, no such organization existed. To fill the gap, she founded Combat Female Veterans Families United in 2017.
The organization primarily supports combat female veterans transitioning to life after war, but it also recognizes the need to provide support to women who are still in combat zones.
"We need to build relationships as early as we can," Robinson said. "We need to … make sure these female [combatants] know we're home waiting for them and thinking about them."
When Commercial Credit Administration Credit Analyst Sarah Hammes decided to lead a BB&T Lighthouse Project, she knew she wanted to give back to the military. During her childhood, her father served in the Air Force. Combat Female Veterans Families United seemed like an obvious choice.
"Growing up in the military, I was like, 'This is exactly what I need to do,'" Hammes said.
Because the project is still getting off the ground, one of the biggest challenges it faces is funding. When Robinson learned BB&T wanted to support the project, she cried.
"When you're passionate about something and you're doing something to help others, when you take a step out there on faith, when you make it a mission to serve others, not everybody understands that," she said.
Robinson and Hammes quickly made a plan. Associates would purchase items for 60 care packages, ranging from hygiene items to BB&T-branded drawstring bags, and come together for a day to assemble the boxes. At the end of the day, the associates would ship the boxes to women serving in the Middle East.
Although the organization had sent individual care packages to military members in the past, it had never hosted an event for volunteers to pack and ship many boxes at once. Robinson said she hopes this is the first of many events to follow.
When the associates gathered with the organization's volunteers, they decided to add an extra component to the packages. Each associate signed cards for all 60 packages, expressing thanks for the women's service.
After organizing the supplies on tables, they created a production line, with each associate in charge of packing a few items. At the end of the line, an associate added a card to each box and set it aside for shipping.
As Hammes reflected on the day, she thought of the many months she spent away from her father during her childhood.
"I know how these women feel overseas being without their families, and it's the hardest thing," she said. "I just want to show them our support and make sure they know we're rooting for them back here, and we're proud of them."