This Halloween we went trick-or-treating with some younger kids from the neighborhood. I overheard one of our friends, a 6 year old, asking my 10 year old daughter about the Candy Monster. The monster, she explained, sneaks into your house in the middle of the night after Halloween and steals most of your candy.
“There’s no such thing as the Candy Monster,” I heard my daughter say. “That’s just something your parents tell you to make sure you don’t eat too much candy.”
Welp. There goes that plan.
Seriously, though. At 8 and 10, my daughters are old enough to learn about exercising self-control without the threat (or promise) of monsters, witches, and fairies. And in fairness, their dad and I could stand to flex our own self-control muscles when it comes to Halloween candy.
As our trick-or-treating was winding down, my 10-year-old and I walked toward home, holding hands and discussing the evening’s events. And then she surprised me. “Mommy,” she said, “I’d like to send some of my candy to the Israeli soldiers. I want to do a mitzvah.”
In Judaism, the literal meaning of mitzvah is “commandment” or “law.” But it’s commonly used to describe a good deed. I was kvelling (that’s “bursting with pride” in Yiddish).
I explained that we probably couldn’t donate our candy to the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) because of the religious dietary laws (Kashrut), but that we could purchase a care package via Thank Israeli Soldiers, an organization I worked with when I visited Israel in the summer of 2015.
I also explained that we COULD donate our candy to American soldiers and/or people in need and that, in fact, there were a number of places that would be happy to accept our donation. We got online yesterday, and here’s what we found.
1. The Halloween Candy Give-Back Program via Operation Gratitude: Operation Gratitude is basically a giant care package program – every year they send 200,000 care packages to veterans, service members, first responders, and more. One of their most well-known programs is the Halloween Candy Buyback (Give-Back). Local businesses (traditionally dentist offices) host candy exchange programs. Kids can trade their Halloween candy for cash, coupons, and other fun stuff – then the business sends the candy to Operation Gratitude, which distributes it to deployed troops and first responders. Click HERE to find a candy collection site near you.
2. Operation Gratitude: If there’s no Candy Buyback program in your area, or if you want to organize something smaller for your school, your neighborhood, or even just your family, you can send your Halloween candy directly to Operation Gratitude. They have some pretty specific guidelines but nothing too tricky. Click HERE for instructions & the shipping address. The deadline for shipping is November 15.
3. Soldiers’ Angels Candy Buy Back: If you need more time to get your candy together (or to convince your kids to give it up), Soldiers’ Angels Candy Buyback accepts donations through December 11. Again, candy exchange events are commonly held at dentist offices or other local business, but you can also donate Halloween candy directly to the organization. Click HERE to find an event in your area and HERE to learn how to ship your candy directly to Soldiers’ Angels.
4. Operation Shoebox: Operation Shoebox sends care packages to deployed troops year-round. Not only will they accept your Halloween candy – but they’ll happily accept your Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Christmas candy too! Click HERE to learn how to send your extra candy to Operation Shoebox. (Slightly off-topic: Operation Shoebox also accepts direct donations of traditional care package items, used cell phones, used ink cartridges, golf clubs, handmade items, cards/letters, and more. Learn more HERE.)
5. Operation Stars & Stripes: Operation Stars & Stripes also accepts year-round donations for the troops. Operation Trick-or-Treating, which runs from October 15-November 15, is specific to excess Halloween candy, which is used to fill stockings for their holiday campaign. Click HERE to learn more about their Halloween and other seasonal donation programs.
Have I missed anything? Are you familiar with any other organizations that accept Halloween candy donations? Let me know in the comments!