Coronavirus Can’t Box In Operation We Care
Operation We Care (OWC) packs thousands of gift boxes for service personnel annually. Each is a taste of home, filled with American snacks and quick foods, gum, sunscreen, lip balm, and other helpful items, as well as a note or card from a caring packer. The process usually takes dozens of volunteers at twice yearly packing parties, as well as donations of both items and money to acquire the items.
The initiative is led by Jeff and Diana Merritt, owners of Minuteman Press in Salisbury. According to Jeff, when they realized that the May packing party would not be possible, they began packing and delivering a small number of boxes each week to front line personnel.
What started small is having a big impact. “We’ve delivered 1,900 boxes since March 24,” said Jeff. “We have made sure to deliver boxes to every hospital in our region, from Easton to Berlin. We have been delivering to police, fire, and EMS as well, and hope to reach as many as possible.”
This week they added boxes of Girl Scout cookies to the boxes, donated by the Chesapeake Bay Girl Scout Council. Packing help arrived as well. The Merritts have been dropping off supplies to the Fruitland Police Dept. and Gary Marshall Insurance, which are packing boxes for pick up. OWC members who have been packing boxes in their homes include Shawna VanBlargan (a Gold Star Mother), Teri Webster, Victoria Sottek, Joe Baumann, Enid Kelley (whose husband Josh was one of the first OWC care package recipients in 2007 in Iraq) and Alexis Ondo. Lindenmeyr Munroe near BWI gave them great pricing on boxes.
Business at Minuteman has been picking up and the Merritts are slowly bringing back employees. They are helping customers with Stage One reopening plans prepare banners, signage, disposable menus, and other needed materials. They are also giving away COVID-19 compliance posters to local businesses to hang in their stores.
“We’re going to keep going,” said Jeff. “We won’t be getting out of this situation any time soon and there’s a mental health piece involved now as front-line people are getting tired. These boxes are a morale boost and what we are doing has become even more important.”
To learn more about OWC, visit their Facebook page, or call Jeff or Diana at Minuteman Press, at (410) 548-7122.