SALISBURY – Operation We Care is continuing on after seven successful years supporting Delmarva troops across the world.
On Monday evening, Jeff and Diana Merritt came before the City Council to present their organization Operation We Care as part of the city’s ongoing “Community Organization Presentation.”
Operation We Care collects, sorts, packs and sends care packages to U.S. troops, and the project continues to grow with the support of many people, local businesses and civic organizations.
According to Operation We Care, the project started in 2007 as a grassroots effort by the Eastern Shore Chapter Harley Owners Group to show support and appreciation for the brave men and women around the world protecting the citizens of the United States freedom.
“We started as a small group of people that had a passion of doing something to help support our troops. We really had no money. No plan. We just had an idea and this project grew significantly beyond our wildest dreams,” Jeff Merritt said.
In the past seven years Operation We Care has grown into a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and has shipped over 5,000 care packages. Last year alone the organization shipped 1,500 packages spending $21,000 in postage as each box costs $14.85 to mail.
“To give you an idea of how the project has grown at the first packing event we did 101 packages and in November of 2013 we did 800 in four hours,” Jeff Merritt said. “We are proud to say we have supported every military unit in Maryland and Delaware that has been deployed in the last seven years.”
The list of top 10 needed items are Chef Boyardee canned pop-top pasta, granola bars, hot chocolate, instant oatmeal, microwave popcorn, Pop Tarts, instant tea bags, deodorant, shampoo/body wash and dental floss.
“Our care packages contain basically items that we all can go to the store at any time we want to get but they mean the world to somebody that is half way around the world in a combat zone,” Jeff Merritt said.
To add a personal touch, the inside panels of the boxes are decorated by students at the 16 local schools Operation We Care partners with.
“It is a community project for the kids, so it gives them a reason to do something for somebody they don’t know, and it teaches them patriotism and Americanism,” Jeff Merritt said. “The effect on the morale of the soldier that receives that box … though emails, letters, or my phone ringing at 2 o’clock in the morning, believe me these soldiers are immensely grateful, especially a foster child who is not getting anything from home. The reason why we like to reach out to whole units as opposed to individual soldiers is because if we can get the information on an entire unit we can make sure that everybody gets something because there is nothing worse than sitting around watching all of your buddies open mail and you’re twiddling your thumbs.”
Items are collected from several different local businesses sponsoring drop off locations in Delmarva. The care package items collected across Delmarva are driven to a central location in Salisbury where they are inspected and sorted into bins by type. After all the items are sorted the bins are hauled by trailer to the semiannual packing party event where volunteers gather filling several hundred care packages. Although items are collected year-round, there are only two packing party events per year: one in May to honor Armed Forces Day and one in November to honor Veteran’s Day.
Postal costs are the organizations biggest challenge. For more information or to help visit www.operationwecare.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call coordinator Jeff Merritt at 410-713-8940.