Tatum Rhoads, back-office manager at Best Buy on Archer Road, had been assembling packages to send to troops overseas for many months when she learned of Operation Supply Drop (OSD), an organization that sends video game care packages to veterans and military across the world.
Inspired by her manager, some childhood friends and some coworkers who are all veterans, Rhoads applied to start an OSD team in Gainesville so she could do more to support the veteran community.
“I just really want to bring the community together,” Rhoads said. “I want to bring together civilians, veterans, [and] active duty service members.”
Operation Supply Drop was founded in 2010 as a veteran service organization to build support for active duty military, their families and veterans. They send gaming care packages to deployed military and veteran hospitals that use gaming as part of rehabilitation. The packages include video games, gaming products and apparel.
OSD places a special focus on gaming because many deployed personnel request things that will distract them from what they do on a day-to-day basis, Rhoads said.
“If you can take your mind off your job that you do 24/7 if you’re deployed, even for five minutes, it’s amazing,” said Jacob Norenberg, a merchandiser at Best Buy and veteran of the US Marine Corps.
Norenberg said they would visit camps once a month where they were able to play video games while on deployment to relax from work. He served in Afghanistan in 2012 and was deployed twice before coming home in 2015.
Ben Douglass, who also works in loss prevention at the Best Buy, recalls choosing playing video games over sleep many nights while deployed because it always eliminated his stress.
“Me and my buddies would play at night when we got off shift and just decompress all night until we were told we had to go to bed and stop waking everybody else up,” said Douglass, a veteran of the US Navy.
Rhoads has had many of her coworkers from Best Buy donate items to be sent to Operation Supply Drop. Among the items she received in the past were a Nintendo 3DS, a DVD player, and several books and DVDs.
“It is the best thing in the world,” Norenberg said about receiving a care package. “Every single day is a grind. Every single day you eat the same thing. You drink the same water. Everything’s the same. When you get anything that’s from America or anywhere else and isn’t full of dirt, it’s amazing–it boosts your spirits for the entire week.”
Aside from care packages, the OSD hosts morale-building events on post, provides professional development and rehabilitation to veterans, and facilitates local volunteering and other community engagement events open to everyone. The organization is focused on combating depression, suicide, homelessness, and unemployment.
“If we help one veteran, it’s a success,” Rhoads said. “All of the blood, sweat and tears I put into this would be worth it.”
The new OSD Gainesville team will host community outreaches, volunteering at hospitals, fundraisers and fellowship events such as bowling and game nights. They will host a job seminar at Best Buy for veterans and active duty service members in November.
“Anything that we can do to help everybody out overseas and on deployment–just any little bit of stress relief helps,” said Douglass. “And what [Rhoads is] doing is absolutely fantastic.”