holiday gifts for soldiers

Volunteers gathered, last year, to turn the donations over to Operation We Care, who packaged and mailed the donations to U.S. Military men and women serving overseas.

(Oct. 2, 2020) Renamed but not repurposed, the “Keeping the Dream Alive” donation drive for active military personnel that takes place in Ocean Pines on Wednesdays during October continues the nearly two decade holiday-season tradition established by the late Carl and Anna Foultz.

Larry Walton, Ocean Pines AARP Chapter 4507 president, said the newly named venture is a revamped version of the former Star Charities annual “Holiday Gifts for Soldiers” collection championed by Anna Foultz after her husband launched it in 2003.

“This year, AARP and Kiwanis have stepped up to carry it on,” he said.

Walton said the Kiwanis Club of Greater Ocean Pines and Ocean City members have jumped on board to maintain the mission to extend care and comfort to U.S. Armed Forces members stationed overseas 

“Nonperishables you can box up,” he said, of the kinds of donations the organizations are seeking.

Teaming with Walton on the venture are fellow past Star Charities members Barbara Peletier and Sue Walter, as well as Chris Wanzer from AARP.

Unlike in past years when black or orange five-gallon collection buckets were stationed at various locations throughout Ocean Pines, coronavirus safety precautions this year dictate that donations for “Keeping the Dream Alive” should be dropped off to volunteers on Wednesday mornings in October from 9 a.m. to noon outside the Ocean Pines Community Center’s Assateague Room.

“They can drive up and even stay in the car,” he said. “Pop the trunk and we’ll have people with gloves and volunteers wearing masks … to take it out.”

Sought-after nonperishables run the gamut from clothing to snacks, such as gum, hard candy, hot chocolate packets, beef jerky, sunflower seeds, powdered drinks, trail mix, socks, books, playing cards, board games, puzzle books, Kleenex, lip balm, dental hygiene items, razors, non-aerosol deodorant, baby wipes, body wash and shampoo.

To widen the scope, flu shots can also be scheduled during the initial drop off date on Oct. 7.

“They need to call ahead if they want a flu shot,” he said. “That’s the first Wednesday only.”

Walton said “Keeping the Dream Alive” is a new effort that echoes past drives sponsored by Star Charities, which was dissolved by Anna Foultz’s family members after she died last September.

Anna credited her husband, Carl, who died in 2010 at the age of 86 for envisioning the charity collection for military members stationed abroad.

Carl Foultz, who served in WWII in the Army’s Communication Service 3363rd Battalion, reportedly recalled how difficult obtaining supplies was during wartime. He then suggested starting what became an annual tradition for 16-years that has spawned a spin-off inaugural drive this year.

The final “Holiday Gifts For Soldiers” drive in 2019 was launched mere days after Anna Foultz died and netted a record haul of donations that were collected last November by Jeff Merritt, president and co-founder of Operation We Care in Salisbury.

Merritt, who launched Operation We Care in 2007 with his wife, Diana, conducts charitable drives in May and November.

Operation We Care is once again scheduled to receive donations this November to package and mail to soldiers serving overseas. 

Besides organizing mass mailings of care packages twice annually, funds collected by Operation We Care also support local Veterans Administration programs in Pocomoke and Cambridge.

Last year, Merritt estimated the nonprofit spent more than $40,000 on postage for the two rounds of care packages.

In addition to sundry items for soldiers, financial contributions to finance postage are also welcome.

Checks should be made out to Operation We Care. For questions of further details contact Peletier at 443-896-4914 or email barbpeletier@gmail.com.  

Newshound striving to provide accurate and detailed coverage of topics relevant to Ocean City and Worcester County

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