More than 15,000 care packages sent by Operation Pioneer Spirit
Team Radio Marketing Group - January 13, 2017 9:49 am
Some of the thousands of boxes filled for troops during Operation Pioneer Spirit.
Who would have thought back in August of 2006 when a handful of newly formed Operation Pioneer Spirit volunteers packed and mailed 19 care packages that 11 years later more than 15,000 boxes would have been sent to our Ponca City and Oklahoma soldiers fighting overseas?
“The first mailing was truly a comedy of errors,” Operation Pioneer Spirit co-founder, Mary Anne Potter, said, “We really didn’t know what we were doing that first day back in August of 2006.
“I had recently received a letter from my daughter, Sgt. Megan Potter of the 1345th Transportation Unit out of Midwest City, stating that she and her fellow soldiers were in desperate need of toiletries and other provisions. Megan said could buy the latest CD or DVD, but not toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, etc.,” Potter said. “Megan wanted me to go start something with my Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme Garden Club friends. So, I approached my club members and Operation Pioneer Spirit was formed.”
Potter said that on the first day of sorting and packing, the group wasn’t quite sure what to send.
“We didn’t know how to fill out a custom form or even that we would need custom forms until we arrived at the Ponca City Post Office. We didn’t know the cost to send a flat rate priority box and we were short some money. So, we dug deeper into our purses and wallets for money, but we were still short of cash. Thank goodness a man standing in line with us donated $20 so we could send all those 19 boxes.”
Now, more than 11 years later, more than 15,000 care packages have been sent to more than 4,200 soldiers with Ponca City and Oklahoma connections, Potter said
Also during that time, more than 3,000 OPS volunteers have volunteered to help send these packages to more than 4,000 Oklahoma soldiers with Oklahoma connections.
When the Pioneer Woman Museum was being renovated a few years ago, OPS moved its center of operation from the museum to Ponca City’s Aquatic and Family Center, YMCA.
The Operation Pioneer Spirit volunteers also participated in Operation School Supply in 2008, sending 2,000 boxes filled with school supplies for the boys and girls in Iraq and Afghanistan, many whom were attending school for the first time. Counting these 2,000 Operation School Supply boxes, a total of 17,000 packages has been sent to the war zone from Ponca City.
Children and teachers from all the area schools, Sunday school groups, the Girl Scouts, Camp Fire girls, volunteer firemen, senior citizens, businesses large and small, teenagers, college students, the handicapped, veterans of all ages-all have helped send these care packages. Volunteers have come from cities and small towns all over Oklahoma.
Other states represented by volunteers are Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arkansas, Kansas, Tennessee, and even from the country of Iraq and the continent of Africa.
Potter said 100 percent of all monies raised goes directly for mailing or to purchase supplies for our troops.
In spite of oppressive heat, blizzards, a tornado, rainstorms, extreme cold, hail storms, no soldier has gone without that has been on the list for Operation Pioneer Spirit.
Now in 2017, the number of locally and Oklahoma-connected soldiers has diminished substantially. Potter says the organization is rethinking its role and is reducing its work for the time being.
OPS packages are still being sent, but by a much smaller group. OPS will continue should the need arise for care packages return in the future. Not knowing what the newly-elected President will do about the situation in several war-torn countries, Potter believes that Operation Pioneer Spirit should take a “wait and see approach.”
“Only a handful of volunteers are needed at this time,” Potter said. “Thus, OPS will not be meeting monthly at the YMCA. I don’t want to disband our group completely. We will continue to send packages, just not in the large numbers we have sent in the past. Most of the soldiers on our list have returned home, and that’s a good thing. A really great thing! However, the future is so uncertain right now, our group thinks it’s wise if we take this ‘wait and see” approach and gear up once again if the need arises later this year.
Potter said, “I am so proud to live in in the greatest city and state — Ponca City, Oklahoma! Many people look down their noses on Middle America. However, we here in the “fly-over” part of this great country have done a tremendous job taking care of our soldiers. We Oklahomans are an independent, patriotic group of people and if we see a need, we get to work and do what needs to be done. Here in Oklahoma, we don’t wait for the government; we take care of our own. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the only way we know how to live. These soldiers deserved the best and we saw to it that they received these much-needed supplies.”
In letter after letter, these brave soldiers would remark how grateful they were to the citizens of Ponca City and beyond for these much-needed supplies, Potter said.
“Some over the years stated they were hungry and were so very thankful for the food OPS sent. Others stated that they would never forget how just when they needed a tube of toothpaste, deodorant, soap, letter-writing materials, paperback books and more, OPS packages would arrive filled with these items,” she said.
“Some wrote that they would never forget that their hometown of Ponca City never forgot them. To a young kid fighting in the war zone, a box from home meant everything,” she said.
You can continue to bring your toiletries, snacks, games, food items, letters, etc. to Chiropractic Associates at 300 N. Fifth Street or to the YMCA.
“We are still in operation. We have just downsized for the time being,” Potter said. “Operation Pioneer Spirit WILL continue, ‘Until They ALL Come Home.’”