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Reaching Out to Our Heroes At Home and Worldwide.

Millionth Shoebox

BELLEVIEW, FL – October 8th, 2013

“I am the oldest soldier in my unit and I can tell you after many deployments, this time of year can be hard on all the younger ones who deploy.  Your thoughtfulness helps take the edge off of being away from home on the holidays.” 

Messages like this are delivered regularly to the unassuming premises of Operation Shoebox, headquartered an hour northwest of Orlando. Founder Mary Harper receives letters and Facebook posts from media-saturated Afghanistan to lesser-known countries like Qatar, but the [insert age] year-old mother of 5 started the organization as a project in her living room in 2002.

On November 11, 2013, Operation Shoebox will fill its one millionth box while Fox News cameras roll. Harper still shakes her head in disbelief when she considers the global impact. “I never thought it would ever get this big, but after we were on CNN, MSNBC, The Today Show, Fox and Friends and Bill O’Reilly’s radio show, we got tons of support!” 

Operation Shoebox began when five of Harper’s children – and a son-in-law – were deployed simultaneously. “I was going crazy,” recalls Harper, “and my son said, ‘Mom! You have to stop crying. We’re going to do our job and come home!’ That was a wake-up call to me, that I needed to do something to help them instead of them worrying about me. 

So Operation Shoebox was born.” Powered by personal donors, corporate partners like Sam’s Club, the Operation Shoebox Thrift Store, and over 1,300 volunteers, the organization has sent care packages containing toiletries, entertainment, snacks and holiday items to troops deployed around the world, many in war zones. 

100% of donations to the 501 (c) 3 nonprofit go to troops. Harper estimated that in 2010, Operation Shoebox shipped a whopping 90 tons. Volunteers range from retirees to high school students and from church groups to the Ocala Cannibals – a roller derby team. 

As the organization developed, Harper’s desire to support U.S. troops found new opportunity when she noticed the needs, not just of deployed service members, but of returning veterans as well – many of whom served under grinding multiple deployments. “We have moved into helping our homeless vets by partnering with organizations like Volunteers of America, where we helped to furnish 13 rooms, and we have been working with Vets Helping Vets to provide food.” 

Even as her vision expands, daily operations continue to highlight the same activity that started the enterprise: packing and sending care packages to troops around the world. Harper is convinced that receiving mail holds magic, “because more than the package itself is the thought that someone actually took time from their day to write a letter from home – complete strangers taking the time to say thank you!” 

And she knows the magic of a care package from personal experience: “one of the soldiers I shipped packages to was so appreciative for what we did for him and his unit that he packed a care package for me! I was so shocked and surprised to get that! It was so awesome to think that what I did for him and his troops was special enough for him to do the same for me when he was able to.” 

Meanwhile, as the holidays roll around, the military mother will quietly set to work on the next million.  

Testimonials

I just got one of your packages today and it was awesome!  We got 8 bags, and I dispersed them quickly.  Also, in the bags were some knit beanies.  Man those were awesome!  I will be sending an email soon with a picture of a few of us sporting them!

Philip C.

Thank you for your support. It is amazing to watch the faces of my troop when they receive your gifts of generosity. You lift them up and keep them motivated. Thank you for everything you do.

 

From: SSG John S

My name is SPC Tish House, and I am one of the many thankful Soldiers who received your goody bag. Thank you so much for your support, time, and effort. It makes us feel great knowing that someone cares. You all are awesome! God Bless You And Thank You Soooooooo Much!!!

SPC Tish House

Just a quick note to say thanks for the care packages that you sent over to the 371st SUS BDE. The soldiers really like the items and even more is the fact that there are people like you that care and think about us while we are away from our families. So again I am very thankful to you. Thanks, thanks thanks.

SSG Rodney Jenkins

I just want to send a quick note to say “thank you” for all the time you spend putting together your care packages for America’s Service Members! I received one the other day and it is so nice to have some comfort items and necessities. I really appreciate your kindness, caring thoughts and prayers!

LTC John Hammer

Thank you for the care packages we received here at FOB Wright, Afghanistan. The care packages truly mean a lot to many Soldiers deployed right now. Because we are in an outlying area, many packages do not get out here fast enough for the Soldiers. When they do receive the care packages, it’s like a piece of home for many. Especially for me, I appreciate the comics, crossword puzzles, and have found good use for the tube socks also. Once again,
thank you for all of your support.

Blackwell, William H

My name is Lewis and I am a Warrant Officer in the US Army stationed at Kandahar, Afghanistan. My unit received your care packages the other day and I want to say thank you! The cookies and Cracker Jacks are always fun to get, but I was mostly touched by a simple handwritten note from Ruth Salerno. The soldiers here do our job because we love our fellowman and we still believe in America. We do not seek accolades, yet I find it very satisfying (and humbling) to know you believe in us. You call u…

Lewis Thomas

Hello, I would like to extend a warm thank you for all that you all have done for my Soldiers located here in Afghanistan.  I am the First Sergeant for Headquarters Company.  I am just arriving to our final location and this is where we operate from.  I noticed the stockings that were sent and passed out to our Soldiers. I want you to know the looks on their faces were priceless.  Knowing they would be away from family during the holiday this let them know that they are not forgotten, Thanks…

SFC M M Jr. Task Force Buffalo

My name is Brad Nelson and I received a care package from you today. I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Myself along with the rest of my company is extremely grateful for your generosity. The treats that you sent were a huge boost in moral and made my day along with many others. It is such a great feeling to know that there are people like you who are willing to support our troops.

CW2 Brad Nelson

My name is Sergeant Carlos Valdez. I just received my care package from Operation Shoe Box today and I felt a need to email you guys back home and thank you for all the help and support all the volunteers have given to soldiers like myself. It’s been a while since I received mail here and this was definitely a moral booster. I would also like to thank Eleanor Sullivan from Summerfield Florida for the lovely card sent in my package, please let her know that her kind words didn’t go unnoticed and …

SGT Carlos Valdez
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