Duo eyes aggressive shipment in next few months providing they meet fundraising goals
It's a bit early, but Renee Atkins and Jennifer Fair have Christmas on their minds.
The two local women started a nonprofit organization called Operation Christmas Glory when Fair found a way to use coupons to get hygiene products like shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and floss for free. Originally, the duo donated the supplies to local homeless shelters, but when Fair became aware that military troops go without many of those same basic items every day, they switched their focus.
'Whether you support the war or not, they are Americans and they are protecting us,' Atkins said.
Atkins, who lives in Tigard, and Fair, a King City resident, began sending a few boxes each week to U.S. troops last March. In response, the women started receiving letters back from soldiers, many of which mentioned that getting the care packages in the mail was like Christmas to them.
Fair and Atkins decided to call the organization Operation Christmas Glory last January.
'We got addicted to helping (the troops),' Atkins said. 'Suddenly, we found ourselves sending more and more boxes.'
Coupons are the key
Fair and Atkins get coupon books from neighbors, family members and a drop off site at the King City Lions Club.
'You would be surprised by how many people don't use the coupons,' Atkins said.
The women say they send eight to 15 boxes per week and have sent 230 boxes since last September.
'We really want to make an impression on these troops,' Fair said. 'Operation Christmas Glory is my life right now.'
It's such a large part of her life that she quit her job at a local Rite Aid and now works 60 hours a week on the nonprofit organization.
The two women have divided the duties - Fair focuses on the couponing and shopping and Atkins packs all of the products in boxes.
Atkins has a full-time job at a local Starbucks and is also a full-time student at the University of Phoenix working on receiving a bachelor's degree in psychology.
'I just try to fill any other space (of time) I have with taking care of the boxes and getting the packing stuff done and really just do whatever I can whenever I can,' Atkins said.
Atkins' brother, Corporal Jonathon Lovejoy, is a marine who is currently stationed on the USS Ronald Reagan.
'When I hear from these Marines and soldiers and all of our military men, I read their profile and I just imagine my brother there,' she said. 'Just going without running water or without real food and eating the ready-to-eat meals. I don't think anybody should experience that. I wish that the government could do more for them. But because we can, it's our responsibility.
'If it's not us, then who is going to do it?'
The five main supplies Atkins and Fair send are baby wipes, deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner. Out of all the supplies needed, baby wipes are at the top of the list.
'With baby wipes, they can basically do a wash down without having running water,' Atkins said.
Postage is costly
Fair and Atkins say their goal is to send 300 care packages to the troops during October and November, but the cost of the postage 'leaning over them.'
Operation Christmas Glory's next step is to qualify for federal nonprofit status, which would allow the women to write grants to help supplement shipping costs.
Otherwise the women fund the boxes out of their own pockets and try to fundraise outside of local grocery stores.
'We are devoted to doing this for as long as we have military personnel overseas. No matter where they are, we'll help out as long they need it,' Fair said.