Operation we care

Closing out the Ocean Pines donation collection for U.S. Armed Forces members stationed abroad over the holidays last Wednesday, from left are,  Sharon Hilty, Dan Peletier, Barb Peletier, Larry Walton.

(Nov. 6, 2020) Volunteers with the Kiwanis Club of Greater Ocean Pines and Ocean City and Ocean Pines AARP Chapter 4507 staged a successful donation drive last month for members of the U.S. military who are or will be stationed abroad for the holidays.

The drive maintains a nearly two-decade tradition established by the late Carl and Anna Foultz.

Larry Walton, Ocean Pines AARP Chapter president, said the “Keeping Anna’s Dream Alive” donation drive collected roughly five carloads of nonperishables foods and personal care items on Wednesdays during October.

“We’re doing it again next year,” he said. “It was great considering we couldn’t do like we did before and we collected almost $500.”

The newly named charitable venture mirrors the former Star Charities annual “Holiday Gifts for Soldiers” collection championed by Anna Foultz after her husband launched it in 2003.

In 2019, the final “Holiday Gifts” drive was launched days after Anna Foultz died and netted a record haul of donations.

Good intensions aside, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic made gaining participation in this year’s effort challenging.

“There were a lot of people that wouldn’t volunteer this year because of covid,’ he said.

A slightly reduced number assisted with collecting drive-in donations each Wednesday in October outside the Ocean Pines Community Center’s Assateague Room.

Leading the charge with Barbara Peletier and Sue Walter, were Chris Wanzer from AARP and Candy Foreman with Kiwanis.

Ocean City resident Sharon Hilty also participated to collect in the memory of her son, Sfc. John-David Hilty.

As with past drives, Jeff Merritt, president and co-founder of Operation We Care in Salisbury received donations to mail to soldiers serving overseas.

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

Walton said health safety mandates obligated Merritt to make recurring collection visits in October, rather than just one after the drive’s conclusion, as had been the practice.

“He’s been coming once a week on Fridays instead of doing the big thing like we did before,” he said.

Besides organizing mass mailings of care packages twice annually, Operation We Car collects funds to help local Veterans Administration programs in Pocomoke and Cambridge.

“He spends almost $40,000 a year for postage,” he said. “That’s a lot of cash.”

Despite that steep tab, Walton said the roughly $500 collected during the Ocean Pines drive was reinvested for recipients.

“It’s getting rolled into more product and also buying calling cards for the military to call home,” he said.

Walton said while the occasional impromptu cash donation was offered when people chanced upon the volunteers collecting on Wednesday mornings, in one instance the generosity went beyond the typical $20 range.

“One lady this last Wednesday donated $100,” he said. “That’s a nice drop.”

The week before that, several volunteers had helped the woman after she had car trouble.

“We were trying to help her and she said she was going to come back,” he said. “She showed up and gave me a check for $100.”

For more information or to donate to Operation We Care, visit www.operationwecare.org or www.facebook.com/OpWeCare.  

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

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