(Originally posted at MuseHack)
Operation Comix Relief was founded by Chris Tarbassian to help troops on the front lines get comics, so they have something to enjoy themselves with and get a taste of home. He was kind enough to let me interview him, and we get a peek into the many ways we geeks can make a difference.
1) Chris, how did you found Operation Comix Relief?
OCR was founded in 3/2003 when LtCol Tom Chafe (then Capt.) a friend/coworker of mine got deployed. As he had direct access to wounded soldiers, and as comics have a long history with soldiers, I decided to ship him some so that they would have a little diversion from what they had been through. Seems it turned the conversation from injuries into what Superhero was the best one! From there folks and companies reached out to me as did the GIs and well you can guess the rest. That’s the short story. Here we are all these years later and hundreds of thousands comics sent across the globe.
2) It seems your original goal has kept expanding – who helps you handle the comics and the mailings (and if its all local, do you accept local donations of help?)
Our helpers are all volunteers, in fact we all are volunteers including myself. We do this all for our deployed soldiers.
Donations for postage are our biggest need. The USPS doesn’t give us any break and even declined to speak with us when I offered to go to DC and speak with the PostMaster General.
Comics for the most part we get from a number of the companies so before anyone sends us comics please email us to check if we have a need. When we get donations from the companies, it usually covers us for a while.
As we are a non profit, all donations are tax deductible!
3) How has the response been do your efforts?
Overwhelming! I hear from our GIs daily thanking us or asking for packages.
Just seeing them happy is thanks enough for us but clearly they don’t think so. Constantly are getting Certificate of Appreciation, flags, etc from them. We’re just glad to help.
I have to say the responses we get in person at the conventions really hit home, because they are now in front of you and not just a name in an email. At one show we had a wounded warrior come up and say thank you as he received a package from us. How can that not impact you.
Keep in mind we ship to any US soldier that’s deployed outside the US, not just wounded ones.
At our last show a woman whose family member we shipped to, came over to me with tears in her eyes just asking to give me a hug and say thank you. That was my paycheck for the next several years.
4) So do you ally with any conventions or other comics-related events, or make appearances?
A: Yes OCR does go to conventions and yes I do try to go to as many as I can (folks want to meet me if you can believe it). This weekend we will be at the Rhode Island Comic Con (11/1 &11/2). We recently did the Granite Con and of course the Boston Comic Con.
We have been invited to others as well and as I said we/I try to go to as many as possible. If there are any out there that would like to reach out to us feel free. We’ll do our best to work things out.
5) Have any comic creators promoted your work or gotten involved?
By creators do you mean companies/writers/artists? Here’s what I can say to sum up that questions as it’s a pretty big question. Many of the companies support OCR. The companies have been extremely supportive! I can’t say enough about the companies I deal with. I haven’t dealt alot with the writers however we do deal with several artists and they too are very supportive.
Recently alot of independent artists/writers have begun reaching out to us and we have been shipping their stuff to our soldiers.
6) How do you collect the comics that go into your relief packages – and how do we get you comics for donations or request a donation?
The comics for the most part we get from the companies/manufacturers. We will also get from private collectors/stores as well, but as I mentioned, please check with us before you send anything as we usually have plenty on hand.
As for getting a package…if you are a US soldier deployed outside the US, all you or you family/friends have to do, is get your address to us at email@example.com. We’ll take it from there, and if you are a US soldier, thank you! You are not forgotten!
7) What other good “geek causes” can your recommend people get involved in?
Anything that’s worthwhile for you. I can’t really recommend anyone thing/group over another.
Thanks Chris! People go show your support!
– Steven Savage
Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach. He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at http://www.stevensavage.com/.