Last Updated on June 1, 2022 by Luke Feldbrugge
Broken Arrow Blue Star Mothers support deployed soldiers, and each other, while assisting veteran’s organizations and homeland volunteer efforts. The Broken Arrow chapter is in Oklahoma, and it’s part of a nation-wide Blue Star Mothers organization. The Homes for Heroes Foundation gave a $10,000 grant to the organization to help it fulfill its mission. This Homes for Heroes Foundation grant is part of the Homes for Heroes’ Circle of Giving, providing assistance for heroes in dire need across the country.
Homes for Heroes Outreach Coordinator, Jay Flynn, talks to Susan Thesenvitz and Emily Machetta. The $10,000 Foundation check was presented to the organization at a Tulsa Drillers baseball game.
Broken Arrow Blue Star Mothers Interview with Jay Flynn
You can watch the full interview here or read the transcript of the interview below.
Jay: Hello and thanks to everyone for joining us today. I’m Jay Flynn, hero outreach coordinator with Homes for Heroes, and I’m joined today by Susan Thesenvitz, second vice president of Broken Arrow Blue Star Mothers, and Emily Machetta, senior mortgage banker with Flat Branch Home Loans. Hello Susan and Emily, welcome. Are you doing well? I hope you guys are.
So Susan, you guys are recipients of the Homes for Heroes Foundation grant, which is part of our Circle of Giving. This was done at a ball game, and that’s much more exciting than me just holding up a check here in a virtual interview. So tell me about how exciting getting that grant presentation check from Emily at the ball game was.
Susan: Well it’s always exciting to do our work and get recognized for our work. When the community helps fund our work–because we’re all volunteers and we all just work for the men and women in the service and the veterans – and when it comes to fruition like that, it is a truly amazing and joyous moment. It fills our hearts.
Jay: Awesome, awesome. So Emily, how in the world did you get that worked out to be at the Tulsa Drillers game and make this presentation? How did you pull off that magic?
Emily: You know it literally was just magic timing. We had planned to do our local Homes for Heroes night at the ballpark. We’ve been planning this for months, and we found out a couple weeks ago about the Blue Star Mom’s check presentation. So I reached out to the Tulsa Drillers and said, “Hey would you mind if we add an extra layer of thank you to the game?” They’re like, “Yeah, sure.” So during the third inning, they let us get out on top of the dugout with the guys underneath. They came out and basically let us give the check to Blue Star Moms and celebrate with the entire community. What a great accomplishment and what a good job these ladies do in our community.
Jay: Awesome. That is so great that the whole community got to be a part of this grant presentation. So officially, from Homes for Heroes, Susan we’re honored that you’re the recipient of the May 2022 Foundation grant. So congratulations from Homes for Heroes.
Susan: Thank you, we’re very honored to have the grant. It will do so much good, and like I said, it just makes you feel good that our work is recognized and that we can keep doing our work. There are men and women out there that need the love and support that we give them.
Jay: Absolutely, for sure. Susan, as you know, May is military appreciation month, and we all owe a huge debt of gratitude to our folks who are serving, and folks who have served, in our nation’s military. Veterans are facing new challenges, so we hope that this grant helps Broken Arrow Blue Star Mothers serve those heroes.
Susan: Absolutely, we have a new VA hospital in Tulsa, but we also have services that are in Oklahoma City that some of the veterans need to get to. One of the ways that we help them is we have provided gas cards so that they can get to the facility where they get their services.
Jay: That’s awesome. Emily, obviously these folks are doing great work right within the veteran community and in the military community, so tell us why you felt we had to nominate Broken Arrow Blue Star Mothers for the Homes for Heroes Foundation grant.
Emily: Absolutely. You know one of the things that I’m passionate about is giving back to the community, and so I volunteer with several veteran service organizations. I met Blue Star Moms a couple years ago at a golf tournament, and they can’t get rid of me now. So we do tons of events together–golf tournaments, charity organizations, they have their poker run, their bunko event – any of these events that we at Homes for Heroes can do to help them succeed. It gives us the opportunity to partner together. We had a craft show and Susan came and supported us at our craft show, so it’s the community working together in all these little pieces that makes it a success.
Jay: Absolutely. It takes a tribe, right? That’s for sure.
Emily: It does.
Jay: Susan, you told us about the gas cards. Tell us what other programs and what other things that Broken Arrow Blue Star Mothers are doing and what other things you guys offer.
Susan: One of the things we do is our chapter ships 100 to 200 of what we call Freedom Boxes (care boxes) to troops who are currently deployed overseas. Those boxes contain about 43 different items. They’re things that the troops are missing from home–things like beef jerky and pop tarts. Then there’s things that they need–baby wipes and foot powder and sometimes toilet paper–depending on what country they’re deployed in. We actually send toilet paper, and those boxes go out every month, all year long.
Then at Christmas we do a little extra. We always do Christmas stockings. We have church groups that hand-sew these stockings, so they are something special. They’re not bought, off-the-shelf, cheap Christmas stockings. They are made with love, and then they’re packed with love. The women and men know it. They feel it. We send personal letters and pictures that kids have drawn and all of that boosts their morale. This reminds them, while they are doing their job, that somebody’s waiting for them when they come home. We want them to come home safe to us.
Jay: Absolutely, that’s awesome. You guys were founded in 2003, going on 20 years of service there in your community. Over 20 years things change, right? Tell us a little bit about how things have changed over the years. What new challenges are you facing?
Susan: I’ve only been with the chapter here since about 2009, so I missed a few years at the beginning. I did talk to our president and asked her a couple of things. One of the things is that it is harder to get names of troops that are deployed, so if there are families out there, and your son or daughter is deployed, you need to reach out to your local Blue Star Mothers chapter and make sure they have your son or daughter’s address.
I did not learn about Blue Star Mothers until my son was actually getting ready to deploy. So we need to reach those moms and dads out there that don’t know about us and tell them, because it was a huge support for me when my son was deployed. It’s very different to go through that when your child is at a base state-side versus when they go overseas. Sometimes you don’t know where they’re going. You need a support system and Blue Star Mothers actually got me through probably the toughest year of my life.
Jay: Wow, that’s really good. It did that for my mom too. I remember my mom talking about it when my brother was deployed. That’s really good information that people need to know, right? You guys may not be able to get the addresses, so you’re relying on those folks to make sure that you can serve those loved ones that are deployed overseas. This is definitely helping get the word out. I know, Emily, all the activities and things you guys are doing are helping get the word out about this wonderful group, so that’s awesome.
Susan, tell us how our audience can get involved in supporting your mission and where they can go to learn more about Broken Arrow Blue Star Mothers.
Susan: Absolutely, we have a website, and if you scroll down, there is a form to fill out. If you have your son’s or daughter’s address, you can put it right there and it will email it to us so we will have it. You can donate on our website. From our website, you can get to the national website to join your local chapter. We have 12 chapters in the state of Oklahoma, and there are chapters in almost every state in the United States. If you google national Blue Star Mothers you’ll get the national organization. You can click on that to find a chapter and find the one closest to you and get involved. People can volunteer; they don’t have to be a mother or a parent or have anybody in the military. They can actually volunteer to help us. We invite the public in to help pack the boxes, help stock our shelves, or just do things at our offices. You can write notes, and we’ll put them in the boxes.
We love Emily because she goes to a lot of the community events for us. If there’s an event she says, “Hey you guys might want to be involved in this.” We want to be out in the community. When I joined, I had no idea that there was a Blue Star Mother organization. So there are a lot of parents sitting out there that don’t know we even exist. Anybody at all can be an associate – moms, grandmothers, stepmothers – and they can be a Blue Star Mother. Their dues are $30 a year, so it’s not a break-your-bank organization. Just get involved and look for your local chapter and see what they’re doing, because a lot of us do different things. Smaller chapters just do more community things, where large chapters like Broken Arrow do community things in addition to packing and shipping a lot of boxes. That’s our focus: to get that love out to our troops.
Emily: Hey Jay, I haven’t told Susan yet but one of the things that we did is we went around to the local schools here in Broken Arrow and Tulsa. We have 1,000 color sheets for you to put in your boxes for the months of June, July and August. I haven’t given it to you yet because we’re still collecting from schools this week. We still have a few schools left.
I have a huge box and they are so cute. All the Tulsa public schools and all the Broken Arrow public schools participated. We had one school who gave us 400 sheets alone. The art teacher in the school got every kid, K through 6th grade, involved. I can’t wait. They’re so cute. You will love them and the guys overseas will love them.
Susan: Oh they do. We get emails and letters back from them when they get our boxes, and nine times out of ten that letter will say: “Tell Kaden I loved his drawing” or “Tell Emily I loved her note.” They always mention the artwork that they get or the note that they get from the kids. They love that, and if they’re in a country that’s all sand, the color is what they love. They put those up on their walls and enjoy that colorful artwork. It really brings them joy.
Jay: That’s great. So Susan, obviously you guys are doing great things. Emily thank you so much for nominating such a wonderful group and being a partner to them and getting them nominated for the Homes for Heroes Foundation grant. That’s just awesome. You guys are doing such an inspiring job. It’s making such a positive impact in our military and veterans lives. I’m certain that the heroes that you’re serving are very thankful.
Susan: Absolutely. Our payoff is the hugs we get when we run into the people at community events. They say “I got a box from you” and then you get the bear hug, and that right there is the payoff. That’s what we do it for–to know that it helped them and they loved it. I get paid in hugs and that’s the best thing in the world.
Jay: That is awesome. Susan and Emily, thank you both for joining me today. I want to thank you for everything that you guys are doing – it’s an absolutely wonderful mission.
Homes for Heroes Foundation
Grants from the Homes for Heroes Foundation are made possible by the Homes for Heroes Circle of Giving and its network of real estate professionals who are committed to providing savings on home and mortgage buy, sell and refinance transactions for firefighters, EMS, law enforcement, military (active, reserves and veterans), healthcare professionals and teachers.
Please take a moment to learn more about the Homes for Heroes Foundation and the grants it provides nonprofit organizations who help heroes in need, or simply to make a donation.