Friday, December 12, 2014
The Finish Line
It's hard to believe our time at the Operation Christmas Child processing center in Baltimore is over. We knew today would be the last day, but after being here three weeks it still doesn't seem real that we're leaving.
This picture was taken this morning as our team stacked our hands for the last time to give our usual morning cheer--1,2,3...TEAM. We truly came to love and support one another, and it's sad to realize I may never see most of these folks again.
Coordinating Gifts In Kind has been a challenge. I started out thinking we had way too many filler items, then swung to wondering if we'd have enough, and went back and forth frequently thereafter. I trust that each of the boxes we inspected and processed left the center pleasantly filled and ready to bless children in Jesus' name.
Here's how my area looked at the beginning of the season
and here's how it looked this morning
The treasures in those cartons were transferred into precious shoe boxes. And when the processing was over the next step was to inventory and pack the leftover items.
After the saga of bagging all that soap and wondering if we had too much or not enough...today we finally emptied the gaylord of soap and celebrated with a loud cheer. Here's my associate, Linda, with the empty gaylord. Sadly, even though all that soap got out to bins on the processing stations not all of it actually made it into boxes.
We worked hard over the last few days to inventory and remove from the floor the items we did not need. I thought we were doing a good job and that clean up would be pretty uncomplicated.
I was wrong.
As each station finished processing boxes they brought their bins of leftover filler items to us. Four bins on each of 16 stations added up to 64 bins of jumbled items to sort and prepare for storage.
I was determined we would not heap everything into miscellaneous cartons and leave the mess for someone to sort out next year. I remembered those cartons we opened this year that were a muddled mess of stickers and small rings and key chains and didn't want to inflict that on someone else.
After a couple of hours of sorting piles of unused soap (approximately 150 bars--yikes!) and Christmas cards (too many piles to count) and small plastic toys and bookmarks and craft kits and socks, etc. etc.... I started to get bleary eyed. I did make sure that every small plastic trinket and ring was corralled in a plastic bag. Unless those bags open I will not be the one responsible for a carton mess next year.
I did take a few minutes out to watch the ceremonial processing of the last shoe box. Two women from Jamestown, NY did the honors. They've been friends for over 30 years and one of them is 87 and and other 92 years old, and they lobbied for this well-deserved honor. Here is Leigh Fisher, PC manager and the OCC Mid-Atlantic Regional Director holding that last box...
And here is the box being processed...
One by one all my new friends and co-workers left, but I still hadn't finished my sorting so I convinced my husband to take the shuttle back to our hotel and then drive back for me. I tried to be meticulous and finish the job but I have to confess I did throw away a few stray Christmas cards along the way.
Mesfin, our team leader and one of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Managers, promised me they would finish the job tomorrow. I'm hoping my sorted piles don't get thrown back into mixed cartons.
In the chaos I never did get the picture of Jim and me in our red and green shirts in front of the Christmas tree that I'd planned on getting. But I did remember to get a picture of the tote board that shows the countries we are sending boxes to and the total for each day.
We didn't get the final total yet...but trying to picture over half a million children receiving boxes that all came through this processing center is a bit overwhelming.
It's been three weeks of some of the hardest and most satisfying work I've ever done. That's my kind of vacation.
Posted by Kathy Schriefer at 5:39 PM