By Sandi Gohn

Two $10 bills. 400 nickels. 2,000 pennies. Depending on how you look at it, $20 can seem like a lot of money, or not very much at all.

However, when you donate $20 – or any dollar amount – to the USO, rest assured, we always think it’s a big deal.

This #PayItForwardDay, we wanted to show you three of the big ways a donation of $20 or less to the USO can help improve the lives of service members around the world. Take a look:

1. More than Just a Game Night

Everyone has a favorite board game. Monopoly. Parcheesi. Chess. Believe it or not, the popularity of these traditional games is on the rise, particularly among millennials who make up well over half of the military – which is great news for their mental health and well-being, according to science.

Researchers have found that individuals who play board games have fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety and panic disorders. Studies also show that playing classic games can help build community, improve relationships and fine-tune interpersonal skills like empathy, cooperation and problem-solving. Other research even shows that games help stimulate the part of the brain responsible for planning and strategic thinking.

For only $13, you can help fund a classic USO game night for our service men and women and know that you are providing them with much more than a just few hours of fun and games.

Photo credit USO Photo by Joseph A. Lee

A service member reaches for a book in Kuwait.

2. Books for the Bases

Few things ease the stress of a long, hard day at work better than reading a favorite book, newspaper or magazine. In fact, it’s been shown that after reading for just six minutes, an average person’s stress level dropped by 68 percent, which bodes well for service members who enjoy a good book.

In addition to reducing stress levels, science also shows that regular reading can keep the brain healthy, ease anxiety and depression, increase longevity, boost happiness and help with falling alseep.

For $15, you can help purchase a new book to add to a library shelf at a USO center around the world, knowing that you were a part in providing hard-working troops with all the benefits that reading has to offer.

A service member looks through a USO Snack Pack.

3. Comfort Food Packages and a Taste of Home

Thanksgiving turkey. Birthday cake. Fourth of July hamburgers. Food has a magical way of bringing a community together and making everybody smile. Particularly for service members serving overseas, these small tastes of home help boost morale and make them forget, just for a moment, how far away they are from family and friends.

According to psychologists, the nostalgic power of food has to do with the immersive, multi-sensory nature of eating. As Susan Whitborne, professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts, explains in 2017 Huffington Post article, “food memories feel so nostalgic because there’s all this context of when you were preparing or eating this food, so the food becomes almost symbolic of other meaning.“ Smell might also be a big factor in why some foods transport us to another place. “Psychological research has demonstrated that smells are powerfully linked to memory, and to autobiographical memory in particular,” said Virginia Commonwealth University researcher Chelsea Reid in a 2015 TIME article. “The olfactory bulb, which is involved in the sense of smell, is linked to areas in the brain associated with memory and emotional experiences.”

For $15 you can help provide comfort food packages to troops to give them much-needed relief and a taste of home after long, stressful days away from home.

The USO is a not-for-profit organization and not part of the Department of Defense. The appearance of DoD visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

Gifts in the USO Wishbook are symbolic representations of the USO’s programs, services, and activities to support U.S. service members and their families. Your contribution will be joined with the contributions of others and used where it is needed most to strengthen America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service to the nation. Your gift is tax-deductible to the extent allowable by federal law.