December Shover is an Army mom. She worries each day that her son might not come home.
Instead of letting her fear consume her, she’s decided to turn that energy into something positive. That’s why she’s spearheading Operation Unity in the Community, a donation drive for Operation Yellow Ribbon (OYR), which sends care packages to soldiers on deployment.
“It lets our deployed community members know that, hey, we are thinking about you,” said Shover, who lives in Medford.
Operation Unity in the Community’s goal is to fill a school bus with supplies like snacks and hygiene products that can be sent in care packages to military members serving overseas. The drive is on now, but Shover and OYR leader David Silver hope an in person event can be held in March.
“Can you imagine the breadth and depth of how many care packages would actually go into filling from top to bottom, left to right, a school bus?” Silver asked.
Shover wanted to have a similar event last year, but the pandemic barred her from hosting anything in person. Still, in 2020 she was able to collect more than $13,000 in financial donations and 340 packages of care items. She and OYR partnered with dozens of community organizations and businesses.
“Last year, we were just so blessed and humbled. It just blew us away,” she recalled.
For Operation Unity in the Community, getting more of that community involvement is the goal. Shover has reached out to local businesses, schools, sports teams and other groups in South Jersey.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican, what your nationality is, what your religion is. We’re all human,” Shover noted. “And if we work together, we can accomplish things.”
She and OYR are looking for groups across the region to get involved. Last year, students wrote letters to include with the care packages, something Shover said she’d like to continue. Silver said he wants to get the Girl Scouts involved, because the soldiers love to get cookies.
Individuals and families are also invited to be part of the drive. Silver said if there’s extra room in your budget to pick up some items while grocery shopping, anything will help.
“Our men and women and their families have been making sacrifices during these deployments,” he explained. “When they’re over there, far from home, in harm’s way and you get a package from a stranger, it reminds them that we remember them and we care about them.”
“We call it a hug in a box.”
Anyone interested in making a donation or getting their group involved is encouraged to contact December Shover at (609) 654-7333 or by emailing email@example.com and referencing Unity in the Community. A list of care package items can be found at operationyellowribbon.org.