Operation Caring Friends (OCF) was started in 2002 as a way to send our servicemen and women “a taste of home”. Its main focus has been to take care of those who get little or no support from home.Mary and Jeff Merritt first started this venture a few boxes at a time when few were sending items to our troops. Word quickly spread and soon they had requests from Commands and Chaplains to take care of those who had no one else. When the costs became overwhelming then Mary, a member of the Motor City Chapter of the Women Marines Association, approached her chapter to make this a Motor City Chapter project. Mary still works as the organizer and chairman of the project.
The packing took place in the Merritt basement. It wasn’t long until that venue was outgrown. Not to mention the logistics. With the assistance of the Alex Stubbs, Romeo postmaster, the entire community became involved. From packings at the local K-mart to empty storefronts we then moved to the Romeo Masonic Temple. They have been an awesome partner always assuring that on top of providing a place to pack they also provide all meals and beverages for the volunteers along with being the drop off point for donations. Words alone can’t even explain just how thankful we are for this continued support.
The hardest part is always raising the funds. We went from sending a few packages monthly to large packings 4 to 5 times a year. The funds needed range from $5,000 to $6,000 per shipping. Of the donations that come in 100% is used only for postage. No other expenses come from these donations or any of the money donated. We use nothing for expenses as WMA is 100% volunteers.
We have been very fortunate to have all of the needed products donated from the community. Various groups and organizations have “mini” drives in their meetings bringing the supplies to be shipped. Among those supporters are the Detroit ParrotHeads, the Romeo Masonic Temple and various schools. Our biggest and longtime supporter is The Foundation of American Veterans who go above and beyond to assure that this support continues. From providing donations to assist with postage or providing items to ship. We have a fantastic team behind us.
WMA Motor City coordinates the packing and shipping at all of the events to assure that everything meets the standards of the postal service as well as the military. Currently sponsored under From Romeo with Love is, Operation Valentine in February, Operation Freedom Refresh in July, Operation Holiday Joy in December and packing’s sprinkled in during September and November. Many times a special request from the troops will create the need for a special packing. Each packing produces about 450 – 500 boxes being shipped to our troops. WMA Motor City is also very active with raising funds for the Fallen Warrior Women Marine Memorial Scholarship by hosting an annual golf outing at Selfridge and volunteering at the VA Hospital. Auxiliary members known as Loyal Escorts also assist in many of the projects. Mike Pearce of Romeo is the current president of the Loyal Escorts of the Green Garter. He brings with him a certain flair that gets many motivated to be active. The support from the community has made it possible for this work to continue. It is the community that is touching the heart of our American Hero’s. They are letting them know that America remembers and that we still care. WMA is just the funnel to get the goods moving. The letters that we get say it all: I am currently deployed to Afghanistan. My unit recently received several care packages from the Romeo Community, Masonic Temple, post office, and the Women Marines Association. I am just writing to say thank you for your support and prayers. The gifts you have given my unit help raise morale and spirits. Receiving care packages is a reminder to us why we are here and what we are fighting for. Again thank you for your support. SSgt Adam Hogue
Romeo!! Greetings from Afghanistan! On behalf of the Women of War Chapter and our deployed service members, thank you for thinking of us and your continued support! We appreciate all you do for us. I walked into the office this afternoon and my clerk told me that all the boxes were addressed to me. I thought they were joking with me until I saw the WMA on the label. This shipment reminded me of the shipments I would receive every other day from WMA and other supporting organizations during the holidays in Iraq. Wow! What a surprise! I took some pics and will post on the Women of War Chapter Facebook page as soon as I get settled. Our Marines have already found a bunch of useful items. I am sending some of these packages to neighbor units to enjoy as well. Semper Fi! V/r MSgt Jeannine
Yesterday we received a care package here. Thank you! We are a small group of US Marines and American civilians here in the UK headquarters in central Helmand. It really does mean the world to hear from folks back home, and know that we are in your thoughts. I’ve been deployed for nearly 15 months now, and as much as I like working with the British, I must confess that it’s probably the best luxury in the world right now to receive some food from home. We are sharing the goodies with British soldiers here at our post, and sending a lot out to the boys at the small, uncomfortable Check Points in the hinterlands. It’s very cold here now, and socks area always welcome! Again, thank you from our small international post. Best wishes, Jesse
Good afternoon! Just wanted to let you know we received one of the care packages you put together and it was much appreciated! The Marines here definitely found much joy and shared it around to make sure everyone received something out of it. Unfortunately, due to the sensitive nature of the mission we conduct, we are unable to take pictures inside our compound. But please know that we do so greatly appreciate the support and appreciation that you showed by sending this package! Respects and Regards, SSgt John
I hope this email finds you well. I just wanted to say thank you so much for the care packages!! We are finally on our last month of deployment and it still warms my heart each time my team gets a care package from those who support their troops. I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put together these packages – it might not be that big of a deal to you but it means the world to us on the ground. It’s the little things like food that we can’t get here, comfortable socks, and hand warmers that make each day easier when we’re away from the ones that we love. Thank you again! Semper Fidelis, Cynthia
Donations can always needed. Monetary mailed to WMA Motor City, Box 590, Romeo, Michigan.