Costs double for Operation Yellow Ribbon of South Jersey to send care packages to military overseas

The increase in shipping costs stems from a decision by the USPS to consolidate its number of postal centers that process military mail.

A big change in the way the United States Postal Service handles military mail is causing big problems for the Operation Yellow Ribbon of South Jersey military support group.

Based in Marlton, the nonprofit group regularly mails care packages full of baked goods and other supplies to men and women serving in the military in the Middle East.

In 2017 alone, the group shipped nearly 1,900 care packages at a combined weight of more than 62,000 pounds at a cost of about $55,000.

However, because of recent changes at the USPS, OYRSJ chair Dave Silver said it would now cost the group about double last year’s price — more than $100,000 — to ship a similar number of care packages in 2018 as it did in 2017.

The increase in shipping costs stems from a decision by the USPS to consolidate its number of postal centers that process military mail.

Previously, the USPS used five locations across the nation to process packages addressed to military locations outside of the United States, including a center in New York that handled packages shipped by OYRSJ.

However, with the consolidation to one centralized location in Chicago, groups such as OYRSJ are forced to pay domestic shipping charges to first send their mail to Chicago instead of a closer postal center the group might have previously used.

Silver said he and OYRSJ were unaware the change was coming, and his group couldn’t find information about the switch in any previously announced 2018 USPS rate increases.

“We were just blown away at this change,” Silver said. “The impact is exponential. Not only from a financial standpoint, but it affects the number of lives we can touch.”

For now, Silver said OYRSJ would most likely absorb the price increase by simply decreasing the total number of packages the group is able to ship.

However, Silver said the decrease would not only affect the number of people who can receive OYRSJ packages, but fewer care package recipients means there are fewer recipients to share their goods with fellow soldiers.

“Those are the lives we should be touching the most,” Silver said. “We’ve never said ‘no’ when we get a request … and now we might have to — that’s the impact. When we say this has an exponential effect, it’s not just about the money.”

Silver said OYRSJ would also be working with the USPS, local politicians and local members of Congress to explore possible options moving forward.

Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ3) also released a statement in support of ORYSJ’s work.

MacArthur said he sent a letter to the U.S. Postmaster General asking for the change to be reversed, in addition to urging the U.S. House Oversight Committee to investigate the consolidation and impact it will have on nonprofit organizations such as OYRSJ.

“We owe it to these organizations and our troops to reverse this unexpected decision and investigate why these changes were made without alerting nonprofits,” MacArthur said.

New Jersey’s 8th District legislators — Sen. Dawn Addiego, Assemblyman Joe Howarth and Assemblyman Ryan Peters — also issued a joint statement in support of OYRSJ.

“It was beyond troubling to hear that the United States Postal Service had such a sharp increase in rates without any warning, and we are joining in Congressman MacArthur’s call for them to reverse course,” the 8th District legislators said.

Silver said he thanks OYRSJ supporters for their work, and asks OYRSJ supporters stand by as the group awaits more information.