Put a little Christmas in your heart in September
Operation Christmas Glory slates first 'packing party' Sept. 30
People are invited to support overseas troops in a variety of ways as King City-based Operation Christmas Glory celebrates two important milestones.
On Friday, Sept. 30, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., there will be a "packing party" in the King City Clubhouse, 15245 S.W. 116th Ave., when help is needed to pack 300 care packages with toiletries, food and entertainment items that will be shipped in time for troops serving overseas to receive the packages before Christmas.
People are invited to pack boxes, write letters to soldiers or try their hand at a boxing match, "Godzilla versus The Box." Donations also will be accepted.
Since Sept.10, 2010, Jennifer Fair, 31, and Renée Atkins, 26, have sent more than 250 care packages to military personnel in Kuwait and Bahrain plus hostile regions of Iraq and Afghanistan, so the "packing party" marks their one-year anniversary as well as the six-month anniversary of being incorporated as a nonprofit organization.
The care packages already sent contained an estimated value of more than $25,000 worth of requested toiletries, food and morale-booster items.
More than a year ago while working as a cashier at Rite Aid, Fair saw "couponers" in action and started couponing herself to donate items to nonprofit organizations in the Portland area.
In August 2010, Fair read an article in the Regal Courier about U.S. troops going without basic necessities such as toothpaste and deodorant. After researching profiles of soldiers and Marines on the website AnySoldier.com (a site devoted to connecting troops in need with people who wish to support them), Fair and Atkins assembled and shipped their first care package, realizing that there was a need that they could fill nearly for free.
Currently, they are supporting at least 30 troops in the four countries that include soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen who are mostly located on forward operating bases with no PX (Army version of a mini-mart) to purchase basic necessities.
More and more troops are registering profiles on AnySoldier.com requesting basic toiletries because of supply cut-backs, and Fair's efforts have not gone unnoticed, with many troops sending her thank you notes.
With Operation Christmas Glory Inc. registered as a nonprofit organization with the state of Oregon, Fair and Atkins are in the process of applying to be a 501(c)(3) organization. Financial donations are tax-deductible and used to pay the costs of products at a price typically 95 percent off of retail value as well as shipping.
The postage cost alone is $12.95 per box, and the real cost per care package is between $2 and $10, but the total estimated value of all items in each box is estimated at $125.
Fair and Atkins' friends and families, the King City Lions Club, local businesses and community members currently cover all costs of the program, and Fair and Atkins are now focusing on attaining corporate sponsors to donate products for the packages and financial sponsors to help cover the costs of postage.
They have supported a total of 95 military contacts, with these contacts having access to (and sharing with) anywhere from four to 800 troops in their particular location.
Fair and Atkins' immediate goal is to raise funds to cover the postage for the 300 care packages they plan to send out for Christmas, which is nearly $3,900, and incidentals will add another $200.
"Ideally, $5,000 would cover the entire Christmas Operation from start to finish - shipping, packing materials, cost of items in the packages at 2 percent of their value and so on," Fair said.
The young women are working to build their support base and will also need a large number of volunteers during November and December to work at their fund-raising gift-wrapping stations. They intend to secure several locations where people can bring gifts to have wrapped by volunteers, and where community members can make donations to Operation Christmas Glory Inc.
"The donations from the fundraisers will create the capital needed to support our troops in the following year," Fair said. "There are so many ways people can help. The community can assist by donating items for the care packages. Specifically, travel-sized toiletries; Beanie Babies - for troops to give to local kids; baby wipes - the most requested hygiene item; new socks - considered a luxury item; USPS stamps - postcard and Forever stamps; and back-to-school supplies - for the troops to use to write home."