When Lacey Chong took an elective course at GW about running a nonprofit organization, she didn’t realize how much it would help her one day.
After launching her organization Spa Swag for Warriors — which ships health and beauty products to deployed military women — in January, Chong wishes she had focused on the subject more while a graduate student at the Elliott School of International Affairs.
“It did not occur to me that six years later I was going to be trying to do a nonprofit,” she said.
Chong, who took classes part-time at GW while working at the National Security Council, received her master’s degree in international security in 2010. When not packing swag boxes, she works for a Virginia consulting company called Inductive Minds.
So far, Chong has shipped 16 large packages — each containing products for 12 to 15 people — and five small ones to women in the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. The products she packs depend on what others donate to her, but she often includes deodorant, eye cream, body lotion and hair products.
Spa Swag for Warriors began after Chong’s friend, a service woman in the Marine Corps, was deployed to rural Liberia in 2014. After hearing her friend talk about being surrounded by bugs and using buckets to shower, Chong spent the holidays collecting unused cosmetic products from friends and family to send to her friend.
Chong, whose own work in the military includes serving as an analyst in the Navy and the Marine Corps, said that while “there’s no shortage” of organizations sending packages to soldiers, very few are geared toward women. She hopes her nonprofit will bring attention and respect to women in the military.
“I can’t believe what women put up with everyday, on top of the stress of deployment, not being around family,” she said. “I absolutely think they deserve the best.”
Eventually, Chong wants Spa Swag for Warriors to become a full-time job. Two years from now, she hopes to secure sponsorships with her favorite companies, like Sephora, and hire more staff.
Her dream is to “get ahead of the curve” when shipping spa swag to military units, so that women are greeted by gift bags as soon as they arrive at their bunks.
“Women serving, especially overseas, are a relatively politically quiet community. No one wants to stand out, they’re not going to ask for things,” she said. “Nobody wants to talk about the more negative side of service. I want to highlight the positive things that they’re doing and recognize it.”