Long Beach, CA, October 28, 2010–Carolyn Blashek, founder of Operation Gratitude, was honored Tuesday with the “Minerva Award” during the grand finale of the Women’s Conference 2010 held in Long Beach, California. Maria Shriver presented the beautiful Minerva statuette, created by Artist Michael De Medina, to Blashek along with four other “Remarkable Women with Remarkable Legacies:” Oprah Winfrey, Sandra Day O’Connor, Oral Lee Brown and Sister Terry Dodge. The Women’s Conference produced and aired a 6 minute video on each recipient and granted each winner a $25,000 Minerva prize to continue their charitable work.
“This Award acknowledges every American across the country who participates in Operation Gratitude, and it pays tribute to our Military heroes who inspire us to a cause greater than ourselves,” said Blashek upon receipt of the Award. “I humbly accept this Minerva in their honor and dedicate it to those who sacrificed all to preserve our freedoms here at home.”
Created by California First Lady Maria Shriver in 2004, The Minerva Award has become the country’s most prestigious award given to women “who serve on the front-lines of humanity,” celebrating their extraordinary legacies of service.
Named for the Roman goddess Minerva who graces the California State Seal, the awards annually honor women who, in the spirit of Minerva, changed California and the nation with their courage, strength and wisdom. Minerva Award recipients have made extraordinary contributions in the areas of the Arts, Health and Sciences, Community Activism, Human Rights, Business and Technology, Motherhood, Innovation, Education and Finance.
“This year’s Minerva Award honorees are women who live with a deep sense of purpose and who are passionately dedicated to serving others,” said Maria Shriver. “These Minervas all identified problems and unmet needs in their communities and have worked tirelessly to solve them. By honoring them, we hope to inspire others to be Architects of Change just like them.”
From the very start of this country’s longest war, Blashek has spent every day supporting the men and women who put their lives on the line overseas for the freedoms we enjoy at home. A former attorney who became a full-time mother, Blashek was so moved by the enormity of 9/11, that she tried to enlist in the military at age 46. She was sent home for being “too old,” and so began the odyssey that led to Operation Gratitude, the largest military support organization sending personalized care packages to deployed troops in US history.
Inspired by meeting a lonely and distraught soldier on his way to the war zone in March, 2003, Blashek sent her first four care packages on the day the war broke out in Iraq. Soon her living room turned into a staging area and post office as friends joined her to send packages filled with snacks, toiletries, DVD’s, candy and letters of thanks to service members. Within six months, the effort had outgrown Blashek’s home. After a chance meeting with, and invitation from, SSG Elizabeth Cowie, Operation Gratitude moved into the National Guard Armory in Van Nuys, CA, which today remains the production site for the care package assembly drives. Thousands of volunteers, young and old, able bodied and handicapped, members of every race, nationality and political persuasion, fill the Armory–all joined together in common cause to put a smile on a service member’s face.
Commanders in the field support and encourage Blashek’s efforts because they see the positive impact of the care packages on their troops deployed away from home. Thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have sent Blashek letters of thanks saying the packages are a reminder of why they serve in harm’s way: for Americans back home who notice the sacrifices they make–and care.
For Blashek, “The mission is two-fold: to honor and remember our troops by sending care packages, and to provide every American an avenue to express their own appreciation to our Military.”
To date, more than 560,000 Operation Gratitude care packages have been sent to service members deployed in combat, each with a personal letter of thanks from someone back home. The 600,000th package will be assembled and shipped on December 11, 2010.
To view the 6 minute Minerva Feature Video: http://www.biglifefilms.com/minervafilms2010.html
To view the entire Minerva Award ceremony: http://www.womensconference.org/the-womens-conference-2010/video/twc-grand-finale