McKee to host socially distanced Operation Holiday Cheer care package event and lead virtual fundraising campaign for Rhode Island Military Family Relief Fund.
CRANSTON, R.I. – The COVID-19 pandemic will not prevent Rhode Island from supporting local service members and military families this holiday season, announced Lt. Governor Dan McKee during a press conference today. The event marked the kickoff of two of the Lt. Governor's military assistance programs: The Operation Holiday Cheer care package initiative and a new fundraising campaign for the Rhode Island Military Family Relief Fund.
The Lt. Governor outlined a plan to host Operation Holiday Cheer, an annual program that usually brings hundreds of volunteers together to assemble care packages for Rhode Island service members who are away from home during the holidays. In an effort to continue the tradition and comply with Rhode Island Department of Health safety guidelines, the Lt. Governor's Office will partner with the Rhode Island Blue Star Moms to host a private, socially distanced care package assembly day in November. The Lt. Governor invites Rhode Islanders to submit the names of care package recipients by calling his office at (401) 222-2371. Due to a low number of Rhode Island deployments this year, all Operation Holiday Cheer costs will be covered by surplus donations from previous years.
"I am deeply grateful to the Rhode Island Blue Star Moms who stepped up to help my office continue our 18-year Operation Holiday Cheer tradition in a way that is safe and innovate," said Lt. Governor McKee. "We are committed to ensuring our military members know that Rhode Islanders are grateful for their selfless service, especially during these challenging times."
The Lt. Governor also announced a first-of-its-kind virtual campaign to raise $50,000 for the Rhode Island Military Family Relief Fund, a program that issues emergency grants to military families in need. Last year, the Rhode Island Military Family Relief Fund awarded over $63,000 to military families to help cover rent, mortgage, utility bills, car payments and other costs. Grants are funded entirely by donations from individuals and local businesses.
Due to a sharp increase in National Guard activation to support the state's COVID-19 response, the Lt. Governor expects an increase in financial need from some military families. Over 500 Rhode Island National Guard members have been activated over the last few months, some leaving higher paying jobs to serve. The Lt. Governor encouraged those who would normally donate to Operation Holiday Cheer to consider donating to the fund this year.
The Lt. Governor unveiled a new online donation portal at ltgov.ri.gov/MFRF which allows Rhode Islanders to donate online for the first time in the fund's history. Local companies seeking to make tax deductible donations should contact the Lt. Governor's Office at (401) 222-2371.
"While the brave men and women of our military are out serving our country, their families are at home serving too. It is our duty as Rhode Islanders to do all we can to support them," said Lt. Governor McKee. "We know this is a difficult time for many folks, but we encourage anyone who can spare a few dollars to donate to the Rhode Island Military Family Relief Fund and help us spread the word about this critical program."
Operation Holiday Cheer and the Rhode Island Military Family Relief Fund rely on the support of local sponsors and partners: Dave's Marketplace, R&R Machine Industries, Rhode Island Manufacturers Association, Rhode Island Society of Certified Public Accountants, American Red Cross Rhode Island Chapter and the United States Postal Service Providence Branch. Both military programs were started by Lt. Governor Charlie Fogarty and continue to be carried out by the Lt. Governor's Office.