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Sharon Foster, American Forces Press Service
Operation Gratitude will receive $232,948 from Target as part of the company's first online giving campaign. The California-based troop-support group was one of 10 charities selected by Target to receive a percentage of $3 million based on votes cast in its online "Bullseye Gives" contest, hosted by the social-networking Web site Facebook.
"I would like to thank everyone who voted for Operation Gratitude,” Carolyn Blashek, Operation Gratitude founder, said. “Each vote paid to send an additional care package to our deployed troops. Target and our voters have truly made a difference to the men and women of the U.S. military who are in harm's way, far from home and their loved ones. I am forever grateful for their dedication to this cause."
From May 10 through May 25, Operation Gratitude's Facebook fans, volunteers, donors and supporters joined forces to cast 22,627 votes, earning the organization 7.8 percent of the $3 million charitable donation pledged by Target.
Target invited all Facebook members to visit its Facebook page to make a choice on how 10 national charities would receive a portion of its $3 million in weekly charitable giving. The charities Target selected included the American Red Cross, Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Feeding America, HandsOn Network/Points of Light Institute, Kids In Need Foundation, Operation Gratitude, Parent Teacher Association, National Park Foundation, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and the Salvation Army.
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital received the most votes -- 77,427 -- and earned $797,123.
Laysha Ward, president of Target’s community relations department, said the company is grateful to the online voters for their “passionate” response to “Bullseye Gives” and their willingness to share personal stories about why these charities are important to them.
“We're excited that all 10 amazing charities will receive a generous donation, as well as increased awareness through social-networking platforms,” Ward said.
In return, Blashek said, she thanks Target for its generous support and creative vision in embracing the social-networking world for good causes.
“My attitude has completely changed about Facebook and other social-networking tools,” Blashek said. “This is a very powerful thing. It is a wonderful way to reach out to people and for people to reach out to you.”
Blashek said the donation comes at a good time. “Operation Gratitude is in the midst of its annual Patriotic Drive, during which a total of 40,000-plus care packages will be assembled for U.S. servicemembers,” she said. “These funds will carry us a long way. All of it will go toward care packages for our troops.”
In addition to earning Operation Gratitude a financial windfall, “Bullseye Gives” also resulted in a windfall of “fans” for the organization during the two-week voting period.
“Our fans on Facebook increased from 472 on May 9 to 5,131 on May 26,” Blashek said. “We are so excited about this new base and members wanting to learn more about us and how they can support our troops.”
Overall, more than 167,000 Facebook members voted for the charity of their choice.