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Operation Shower: Filling a need for moms-to-be

Aug. 16, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
LeAnn Morrissey, left, founded Operation Shower in 2007. She is shown at an event with 'Melissa and Joey' star Melissa Joan Hart and Operation Shower staffers Lia Nunez and Amy Belle Isle.
LeAnn Morrissey, left, founded Operation Shower in 2007. She is shown at an event with 'Melissa and Joey' star Melissa Joan Hart and Operation Shower staffers Lia Nunez and Amy Belle Isle. (Nicole Benitez Photography)
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Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, and first lady Michelle Obama attend a 2011 shower at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. (Gerry Broome/The Associated Press)

Operation Shower hosts group parties for the pregnant wives and partners of deployed service members and for expectant moms in other special circumstances, such as having a military spouse who was injured on deployment or who must deploy soon after the birth of the baby.
The group’s Shower in a Box program tries to reach moms who can’t make a group shower. For more information, visit operationshower.org.

LeAnn Morrissey never set out to found Operation Shower. She’d mailed care packages to her soldier uncle during his deployments to Iraq but was never quite sure if she was sending the right things. She also felt she could do more to support the military.

So when Morrissey was asked in March 2007 to send a card to four expectant moms while their spouses were deployed, she decided to take it another step.

“I love buying gifts and helping with babies,” said Morrissey, who lives with her husband, Ed, and 12-year-old son, Keilan, in St. Louis. “I just decided with the help of friends and family to put together what I call a shower in a box to recognize some military families. We went out and shopped and looked online and got everything we’d wanted [as moms]. It got such a nice response. We also heard from spouses about how much it meant to them to recognize their families and their sacrifices as well. It was a lightbulb moment.”

Morrissey hosted her first unit-wide baby shower for several dozen moms-to-be that June at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Operation Shower has since feted more than 2,100 military moms and will host its 50th event next month at Fort Drum, New York.

Q. What did you do before you founded Operation Shower?

A. I grew up in a small town in Arkansas, where I went to college and law school. I practiced law in Houston for five or six years. When my son was born in 2002, I took some time off and stayed at home. My son started kindergarten in 2007, which is when I had a little bit more time. I was looking for a way to help other moms. I didn’t have family nearby, so I really relied on other moms and mom classes to figure out what I was doing. I enjoyed sharing information that was valuable to me, so I started a small blog.

Q. What can moms-to-be expect at an Operation Shower event?

A. It’s about a two-hour event. All themed and full of individual touches. We seat the moms at tables with really nice linens and glassware. We might have a fun activity like a onesie or bib decorating station where they can make their own special memento to take home. We have an extensive, fun dessert station. We do some raffles and door prizes. Every mom gets a Shower in a Box — a large box filled to the brim with every item you could possibly register for. Usually the highlight of the event is getting to see them finally get all their gifts and meet them.

Q. What is your most memorable shower?

A. We had one woman who was pregnant with twins. Her husband was deployed and her mom was also active duty and about to be stationed in Germany. She was telling her story at the table with a few other moms and they all said, ‘Don’t worry. We’re here.’ They exchanged numbers. That was really special to know she had that support. A lot of people send us pictures when the husband comes home or the baby is born and let us know the day they had with us still impacts them. We really hope it’s something they can carry with them and realize there are so many people who support them.

Q. Who are some of the notable people who have attended the events?

A. First lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Biden, joined us for an event at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in 2011. We’ve had Melissa Joan Hart of “Melissa and Joey” and Beverly Mitchell of “Seventh Heaven.” Through our partnership with Babies “R” Us, we’ve had Heidi Klum and Kim, Kourtney and Khloé Kardashian of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” We’ve had PGA tour wives and players at showers. We don’t pay anybody to come. It’s all volunteer and just out of their goodness and desire to help.

Q. What are the plans for Operation Shower now that the war in Afghanistan is coming to a close?

A. We plan shower by shower. We really feel like we’re doing what we love, something we feel matters and that is important. We feel like it’s important for these moms to be able to celebrate. That’s what we want to continue to do. Maybe there will be fewer deployments, but there is still so much to recognize and so much to thank them for. We don’t see our organization drawing down by any means.

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