‘Operation We Care’ packages set for shipment
WORCESTER COUNTY — The first donations are being accepted for Operation We Care, the non-profit grass-roots effort started and coordinated by Jeff Merritt and his wife, along with a philanthropic group of 36 residents, to provide care packages for Delmarva military members serving overseas. The first of two shipments this year will be mailed out mid-May.
Merritt said Tuesday that the 501(c) (3) organization has 24 drop-off locations on the peninsula. In this area, drop off sites are the Berlin library, OC Floor Gallery, all First Shore Federal Savings & Loan Bank branches, Harley Davidson of Seaford, Del., and Minuteman Press of Salisbury.
In downtown Berlin, Operation We Care will commence Friday at The Church Mouse during the May Day Play Day and Second Friday events.
Merritt said he and his wife started the program in 2007 when they realized there was no organized effort to ship provisions to service members from the local area and they wanted to show their support. The organization collects donations, snack bars, toiletries or cash donations, which will be used to prepare and pay care packages to troops from Maryland and Delaware serving in Afghanistan. After starting the care package drives with three-dozen volunteers, Merritt said his team has grown to more than 200.
According to Merritt, “The response from business, civic and service organizations has just been amazing.” He said people of the area are constantly stepping up to help, a situation that he said reminds him to be thankful he lives on the Eastern Shore.
For example, because of the Chesapeake Bay Girl Scout Council’s donation of 250 cases of cookies, “Every package gets a box,” Merritt said. Another 25 cases go to the soldiers convalescing at Walter Reed, he added.
Merritt said the most coveted items are Chef Boyardee pasta in pop-top cans, bar soap, shampoo and body wash, granola bars, hot chocolate packets, non-aerosol deodorant, instant oatmeal packets, microwave popcorn, Ramen noodles (wrapped brick-shaped type, not noodles in a cup), tea bags and zipper seal plastic bags to help prevent cross-contamination.
According to Merritt, the goal this year is to ship 500 care packages in the two shipments made in mid-May for Armed Forces Day and in November for Veterans Day. The cost of shipping each package is $14.85, he said. The organization spent $12,000 on shipping last year, and the cash donations go towards that cost, he said.
On the Web site, organizers invited school teachers who are looking for class projects to get students involved in the effort by arranging to color the inside of the boxes with supportive messages of thanks and appreciation.
Individuals who know of a service person who would appreciate receiving a care package can visit the Web site at OperationWeCare.org, contact the organization by e-mail at OperationWeCare.firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 410-713-8940.