The Military Mama Network’s Iowa Chapter came together on Saturday, Feb. 22 at the Van Meter American Legion. Together, women from all over Iowa worked to make no-sew blankets for veterans in palliative care along with hygiene kits that will be donated to help support local homeless veterans.


The Military Mama Network is a national organization that was initially founded back in 2013 with the mission to support troops and their families. Although the local chapter, itself, is only about four years old, the Iowa chapter currently includes close to 170 members of various ages and backgrounds from all across the state.


“I’ve always tried to tell [my son] and show him that we need to support our community however we can,” Military Mama Network’s Iowa Chapter Leader Cynthia Valenta said. “To me, you may not have money but you can always volunteer your time.”


Members of the Iowa chapter first met at the beginning of the year in order to determine which missions to focus on for 2020. Each mission is then hosted by the member who proposed it, with the group currently working to complete between 12 to 20 missions per year.


In addition, the local chapter also makes it a priority to volunteer at the Iowa Veterans Home along with placing wreaths at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery located in Van Meter.


“I like the camaraderie and the friendships,” Military Mama Network’s Iowa Chapter Member Laura Butler said. “They were there for me when my son was deployed and I know that I’ll be there for them when their children are deployed.”


One way members of the Iowa Chapter show their support is by providing care packages to those currently on active duty in the military. For example, when the Iowa National Guard’s 248th Aviation Support Battalion was deployed over two years ago, the group came together in order to send about 200 care packages every month for six months.


“It’s awesome because there are people that don’t have family members and those care packages mean everything to those guys and girls overseas,” Military Mama Network’s Iowa Chapter Member Laurie Norris said. “[I like] sharing stories about our kids, learning about what they’re all doing because no matter what position they’re in or what service they’re in, you gotta give them props and they deserve everything when they get out.”


Funding for the Iowa Chapter ranges from local donations to events such as the upcoming Gift Box Auction. The national website also has a donation icon specifically for the chapter where those interested can donate funds to the local organization.


“Every little bit counts. You may not think that you can make a difference but you can in your own way,” Valenta said.


Coming up, the Military Mama Network’s Iowa Chapter will continue to meet at various locations each month, including the Iowa Veterans Home in March, Sioux City in April and Cedar Rapids in October, to name a few.


The Iowa Chapter is also currently in need of oral hygiene care products, such as toothbrushes, toothpaste and mouthwash, for their kits as well as food, books and other items to include in the care packages given to recently deployed and active-duty military personnel.


Those interested in learning more about ways to become involved in the Military Mama Network’s Iowa Chapter can contact Cynthia Valenta at IA.CedarRapids@MilitaryMamaNetwork.org.