When LeAnn Morrissey’s uncle was serving with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan in 2007, she asked if she could do anything for him and his comrades. His suggestion? Send a card to the pregnant wives of four men deployed with him who would not be present for their child’s birth.
Morrissey fulfilled her uncle’s request—and then some: The expectant military wives got considerably more than a card. Morrissey, along with friends and family, created a ‘shower-in-a-box’ for each woman, containing “everything a mom would need or want from a regular baby shower.”
She also tucked a letter into each box that expressed her appreciation and support for the families of deployed soldiers. “The response from those first moms-to-be was so overwhelming, I felt that this was a real need I could address, and I wanted to continue,” Morrissey says.
Morrissey’s vision became Operation Shower, a nonprofit she operates from her home. As ‘chief shower officer,’ Morrissey seeks donations for showers-in-a-box and organizes volunteers to pack and help deliver them. The boxes contain infant bathing items, clothing, feeding items, books and toys. Through a partnership with K-Mart, Operation Shower also has provided car seats to expectant mothers.
“Our primary focus now is on organizing and hosting unit-wide showers for all the pregnant wives of soldiers in deployed military units,” Morrissey says. She and Operation Shower volunteers travel to military bases across the nation and host individually themed baby showers for moms-to-be.
The first shower of 2011 was held in San Diego for 40 women, and Morrissey is already planning a mega-shower in September for about 100 women whose spouses will be deployed on an aircraft carrier this spring. In cooperation with the March of Dimes, the Operation Shower team also delivers boxes to women who have premature infants in military hospitals.
“The expectant moms are happy to get the gifts, but I think the moral support and appreciation for what they’re going through is even more important,” Morrissey notes, adding that many military wives live on bases far from their own families.
With a shoestring budget and largely dependent on product donations from individuals and vendors, Operation Shower is seeking to expand through a new program, Operation Give Thanks. “We’re encouraging people to have parties—not just baby showers—but all kinds of parties where instead of bringing gifts, guests donate to Operation Shower,” Morrissey explains. A party-planning handbook and free printable invitations, party favors and decorations based on various party themes are available at operationshower.org.