The impact of a stranger

 

I was recently invited to take part in what I believe has been the most rewarding outreach event I have ever attended. Led by Steven and Cheryl Price, Military Outreach Life or M.O.M., is an outreach not only dear to their hearts, but is one that affects the hearts of all who become involved. M.O.M was started several years ago when Cheryl’s son, Brian, who serves as an avionics technician in the Air Force, asked for some homemade treats from back home. 

Cheryl, who is the Missions Leader at First United Methodist Church in Coral Springs, began doing small Pack-N-Ships out of her home. Friends would gather donations, write letters and volunteer their time, meeting at the Price home to fill boxes with magazines, toothbrushes, soap, shampoo, razors, books, sunscreen and homemade sweets and treats. 

As time went on, the Pack-N-Ship mission began to grow and eventually relocated to the Fellowship Hall at First United Methodist. M.O.M has been featured in several different Newspapers and is well known in the military community. 

During my time at the Pack-N-Ship, I had the opportunity to meet Russell Austra, 28, who serves in the Army and is currently serving a year-long tour of duty in Afghanistan. He volunteered at the Pack-N-Ship because he was home for a few days to bury his stepfather. I asked him what goes through his mind when he receives a letter and a package from a complete stranger. “It’s amazing that people take time out of their day, because they don’t have to. They choose too, and I appreciate it so much. To get packages from strangers, who don’t know who we are, but support us, it is a great thing,” he shared. “Mail is the biggest moral boost that we get out there.”

As I stood back to take pictures of everyone gathering around the tables and carefully picking out what should go in each soldier’s box, I was overwhelmed by many different emotions. Everyone there was working together as a team to support the men and women that make it possible for each one of us to wake up every morning and have the freedom to do whatever we please during the day. 

Regardless of different political views or opinions about the war, the reality is this – these men and women proudly serve our country while daily facing grueling conditions that for some are unimaginable durring the longest war this country has ever faced. In places like Iraq, daily temperatures average over 100 degrees, many soldiers work long and tense hours on the battlefield, sometimes showers and cold water are few and far between, dehydration is common, time off is rare and being “homesick” is an understatement. 

As Russell continued to share with us how mail call is something every soldier looks forward to, how even the smallest package or simplest letter can turn a dreadful day into a joyous one, I was thankful for the fact that I had the freedom that morning to get up, walk into a church and take part in something I believe in. 

Gerri Nowicki, one of the 2010 winners of Florida’s Beauties of America who stopped by to show her support and pack boxes, shared, “I love to volunteer, meet new people and make new friends. Anywhere I am needed, especially something like this, it is an honor to come out and offer my help.”

After a short time, we were all taken aback that the thousands of donated items on the tables are completely gone. Steven Price shares with me that this was the biggest turnout of volunteers they have ever had. 

The final count? Eighty-one boxes were packed in less than twenty minutes! Steven shows me the scrapbooks that Cheryl has made over the years, filled with pictures, letters and acknowledgments from soldiers all over the world. “We cry when we get these letters,” he shares. “Soldiers have sent us plaques, flags, you name it, and it is an amazing feeling when we receive them. We love being able to do this outreach with this church; they have been behind us one hundred percent. God placed this on our hearts and we are completely hooked.”

For more information about the M.O.M (Military Outreach Missions), please contact 

Cheryl Price at [email protected]

 

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