Operation Christmas Glory defies co-founders' expectations
Jennifer Fair and Renee Atkins have mailed more than 200 boxes to troops
Operation Christmas Glory has taken off like a rocket since King City resident Jennifer Fair first saw an article in the September 2010 Regal Courier about the King City/Tigard Republican Women's Club collecting items to send to troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
That inspired her to start collecting coupons and purchasing items, mailing two USPS boxes to troops she found at www.anysoldier.com every other week.
Once an article appeared in the April Regal Courier about Jennifer's efforts, people from around the southwest metro area reached out to help her, and the rate at which she was able to mail boxes ramped up.
"There was such a spontaneous response to our efforts," Jennifer said in mid-May. "By January I was mailing 30 boxes a month. We have just mailed our 200th box. I never planned for this to happen."
Jennifer and her best friend Renee Atkins have finalized the formation of their non-profit organization, Operation Christmas Glory (EIN 45-1424538), so now contributions made by people are tax deductible.
To celebrate the occasion and thank their contributors, Jennifer and her parents, Tom and Leanna Fair, who have been supporting her efforts 100 percent, threw a barbecue May 14, and about two dozen people showed up.
Jennifer and Renee didn't waste the opportunity to educate the guests about their operation. In the family garage, which has now been turned into a warehouse, the back wall was stacked with nearly 200 USPS boxes, and another 34 were sitting in the middle of the garage ready to be shipped.
Jennifer has been devoting so much time to the effort that she recently gave notice at the Tigard Towne Square Rite Aid that she had to quit her part-time job as a cashier.
"Now I'm going to focus on writing grants and shopping," Jennifer said. "My abilities to shop effectively with coupons have quadrupled, and that way I have money to buy fun things for the boxes - that's what I'm paying for now."
Local groups have stepped up to the plate to help: One constant expense is the $12.95 shipping cost for each box, and the King City Lions Club is donating $100 per month for six months to help pay for shipping some of the boxes.
"The King City Women's Golf Club has donated hundreds of dollars worth of toiletries and food," Jennifer said. "The hardest thing to get is bars of soap - you can't find coupons for them. And my wish list also includes baby wipes and gallon Ziploc bags. Every container in the boxes has to be put in them to prevent leakage. I go through a Costco case of them with every eight boxes I mail."
She and Renee plan to set up Christmas gift wrapping stations in stores to earn money for Operation Christmas Glory. And people can help by dropping off checks made out to Postmaster for $12.95 at the Post Office in McCann's.
Jennifer and Renee have divided their workload, with Renee doing the packing, which includes preparing a list of what is in each box down to the number of ounces of each product.
"I do the shipping and shopping," said Jennifer, although her dad Tom has been seen entering McCann's with a dolly stacked with boxes to be mailed. "We are now sending 50 to 80 boxes a month. I never anticipated this growing so fast, but it's way fun."
Jennifer is already looking ahead to Christmas and asking for donations of trial sizes of products to be put into stockings.
"I was thinking I would send 100 boxes for Christmas, but now I'm thinking 300," Jennifer said
She can really use more coupons, and the Fair family has set up a tote in front of their driveway plus a box by the garage where people can drop off coupons. Jennifer especially needs the ones from the Sunday newspapers plus those that come in the mail such as from redplum.com, SmartSource Magazine and P and G brandSAVER.
She asks that people collect them and drop them off every couple of weeks.
Looking ahead to the future, Jennifer said, "No matter what happens in Iraq eventually, we will always have troops overseas, so I will keep doing this."