Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Bags In Boxes

I realize this might look like some type of sidewalk sale but it's actually the site of the most recent delivery for next year's Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

I missed the call from the trucking company on Friday and couldn't return their call until early Monday morning.  Unfortunately, they couldn't get the shipment out on Monday--the day when the temperature reached almost 70 degrees and the sun shone brightly.

So, the prayed-over delivery came on Tuesday--a brisk and cloudy day.  A perfect SEVEN pallets, each loaded with one huge box of tote bags, were delivered--enough to completely block the church driveway.

My sidekick, Pam, and another team member, Sue, started right in on unloading.  We'd saved all the large cartons that were left over when we consolidated last week's shipments of hats and visors.  God blessed us by having the hats delivered first so we had something to put the tote bags in.

The totes vary in size and thickness.  Some are thickly padded and insulated while others are thin and take less space in the box.  We devised a plan to count them in groups of 25 and make a mark on the carton for each group as we nestled them in.  Each large box could accommodate anywhere from 175- 250 tote bags.

We weren't far into the task when Amanda came by to pick up some OCC boxes and ended up blessing us by staying to help count and stow.

It took about four hours and a total of 24 large cartons to finish the job.  You'd be really entertained if we'd managed to figure out how to take a video of three women over the age of 60 working to figure out how to utilize every centimeter of storage space in that container.  It was like a giant Jenga game accompanied by lots of huffing, puffing, and shoving, but we did a great job if I do say so myself.  I can't wait to see who gets to unload those boxes of scissors that we wedged on top of the five-carton stacks next year.

About twelve hours after we finished the job our area was hit with winds up to 60 mph.  Many trees were blown down around the city.

Needless to say, we're thanking God that delivery came on Tuesday rather than on Wednesday.  Thank You, Lord, for having those details all in the bag.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Under The Pile

Sometimes, while there's a lot to blog about, blogging takes a back seat to slogging through.  I've been doing a bit of slogging lately.

Last Wednesday we received another shipment of 53 cartons of hats and visors for next year's Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  I take the deals when I can find them and this seemed like a good one.

I was grateful the shipment came on a clear day.  At first I was a bit intimidated by the pallets stacked five cartons high, but I found I could maneuver even the top ones and get them down "all by myself" with the pride of a toddler who has mastered climbing on a kitchen chair.

Blessedly, my sidekick, Pam, was there to lend her sorting and packing expertise.  We opened all the cartons, took the hats out of their inner boxes, and consolidated them--tallying them as we went.  The job proved to be too much for one day, though, so we muscled all the boxes into our storage container and tabled the rest of the job until Friday.

Thursday was another busy OCC day.  My husband and I met with the pastor of a local church called Elevate to try to recruit them to pack OCC boxes.  Then we came home, regrouped, and headed out for Bradford, PA--a nice just-under-two-hour drive on a crisp fall day.

We met with the Johnsons who are relay center coordinators there and then traveled on to Hill Memorial Church where we had a great time presenting OCC to the kids at their after-school Kids' Club.  The kids listened to the OCC video with rapt attention and then we played a game where volunteers took turns reaching into a bag to try to identify shoebox items by touch alone.  Then each of them decorated a shoebox to take home and fill.

Here is one of my favorites--

After the kids went home we had a pizza supper with adults and then did an OCC presentation for them.  We were home by 11:00 on Thursday night, and Friday morning Pam and I were back at the container to work on those cartons of hats again.  We managed to finish the job amid mountains of cardboard.  With a full dumpster, we had to store the piles of cardboard in the container until Sunday when my sweet husband helped me load it into our van.  

Thankfully, the "garbage fairies" that come to our house in the middle of the night on Sunday night made it all disappear.

I forgot to mention we traveled another hour and a half on Friday afternoon to Knox, PA for a fun OCC packing party hosted by my regional director, Leigh Fisher.  We had a great time.  My husband cartonized and I folded boxes.  What joy to watch them go beyond the goal of 1,200 to a total of 1,298 packed boxes.  While there I missed a call from another trucking company.

I returned the call today and scheduled another delivery for tomorrow.  We're praying for warm and dry weather so we can unload a perfect SEVEN pallets of tote bags.  Six of them are on open gaylords and will need to be counted and put into boxes for storage.  

Counting is important.  Our count revealed we were significantly shorted on the shipment of hats and visors and the seller is investigating to see what happened.

Meanwhile, I'd better get to sleep, because we'll be back under the pile tomorrow.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Country Hospitality

Okay.  It's time for a confession.  My family has a dirty little secret--something I try to keep hidden.  My husband owns a sports car.  There.  I've said it.  My name is Kathy and my husband owns a sports car.

My husband's first car was a 1970 Dodge Challenger.  In 1977 we were expecting our first child and he sold that car so we could buy a "family car."  And he's never recovered.

So a few years ago I came home from work and he, bubbling with excitement, announced he'd impulsively purchased a 2010 black Dodge Challenger with subtle green metallic sparkles in the paint.  I was pretty livid.  I told him I'd never ride in it because it was against everything I stood for (you know, that vow of poverty and simplicity I took.)  It was not one of the finest moments of our marriage.

But the years passed and I eventually did ride in the car.  Reluctantly.  It's housed in the garage and I think it's been washed more than it's been driven.  Still, oh how he loves...

Today I was scheduled to speak about Operation Christmas Child at Midway Alliance Church in a rural area about an hour away.  The pastor warned me not to depend on a GPS because they often don't have reception there, so I dutifully printed out the directions via Google Maps.  

This morning my husband announced he wanted to drive 'his' car--one last hurrah of the fall.  Inwardly, I groaned.  I didn't want to show up to speak at a church in that show piece.  Still, he was nice enough to drive so the least I could do was ride in THE car.

We were doing okay until we got stalled in the thriving metropolis of Spartansburg right around the Family Dollar--the only thing I saw that could be called a store.  How was I to know the streets  (um, roads) weren't properly identified by the names used by Google?  After trying all three possible roads--two very narrow and one even narrower than that--we admitted defeat and I tried calling the church phone number.  Yes, I tried.  Then I realized that no GPS reception might mean no cell phone reception.

I got out of the car and tried to walk to a place where the call would go through.   After at least a dozen tries--dropped calls with me calling back again and again--sweet Chuck told me they'd send someone to the Family Dollar for us.

Did I ever tell you I hate the country?

We waited about 15 minutes and a car drove in with our rescuer, Bob, to lead us out.  He later said, "I pulled into the Family Dollar and immediately saw a car that didn't belong in Spartanburg."  As we drove off we went by a group of guys who I thought were all staring at me...then I realized they were ogling the car!

Next we went by a trio of Amish kids on scooters and as we passed they all yelled, "Wow!" (again, not referring to me.)

Blessedly, my husband had shooed us out of the house that morning 15 minutes earlier than I'd planned.  Good thing, because we arrived at the church at 10:51--nine minutes before the service began.

I'd planned a talk based on the feeding of the 5,000+ in Mark 6 and prayed about what stories to share, and I think things went well.  I sure enjoyed talking with the folks afterwards and hearing about their heart for Operation Christmas Child.  They packed 28 boxes last year and I challenged them to double that this year.

Then, something unprecedented in my Operation Christmas Child speaking career happened--a family invited us home for dinner.  Not just a nuclear family, mind you, but a large extended family that gets together every other Sunday for dinner.  So, we went...following them in a caravan for miles over dirt roads.  I could see my husband inwardly cringe as the dust flew around 'his' car.

We pulled up to the house opposite the barn pictured above.  Marjorie, the matriarch, had 11 children, and nine are still living.  She lives in this house with two of her daughters while another daughter and her family live in one house across the road and a son and his family live in another.

We were immediately met by FIVE dogs of varying sizes and bark decibels.  I am not a dog lover.  At. All.  But I managed to get by them into the house.  Marjorie invited us to "sit anywhere" except on the chairs that were unabashedly piled high with her quilts-in-progress.  What fun it was to see them all and hear of how she's made 100 or more in her lifetime and continues to plan them for each family member.

No one seemed to worry that the furniture was old and stained or the house was cluttered.  They shared their lives with gladness.  We feasted on pork and sauerkraut at two plastic tables on the front porch and heard stories about ribbons won at the fair and about their two cows that escaped to the neighbor's farm last June and were still there!

All the family loved my husband's car and the kids wanted to get their pictures taken by it.  This made my husband proud and me embarrassed.

Before long the kids had to leave for their 4H club meeting, and Jim and I got detailed written directions before we headed for home--back down the dirt road again.

Despite the rough start God blessed us with wonderful church fellowship,  a beautiful afternoon drive, and amazing country hospitality.

It could almost make me love the country.  Note I said ALMOST.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Container Cleaning

Oh, look--we found the back of our storage container today.  It's almost three weeks post-packing party but a combination of life and the weather has been interrupting the desire to get at the job of reorganizing.

We started the day by opening all the now-dry-but-crumpled boxes filled with next year's jump rope handles, dumping them into the empty Flexfit hat boxes we saved, and breaking down the old boxes.  That alone made such a huge difference.  We got more than 2/3 of those boxes finished and were also able to do a spot inventory to get an idea of what's left.

See how nicely those boxes are stacked?  Well, before you know it one of us is going to be working to tip the top row down so we can use the handles to make more jump ropes.  Juggling boxes around this storage container is a constant.

In the midst of this we loaded (I mean stuffed, as in even the front passenger seat is full) my minivan with leftover nice plastic lidded tumblers that I will deliver tomorrow to our neighboring area team for them to use at their large packing party in November.  All the boxes loaded in my van contain a total of 916 tumblers, and there are another couple hundred in plastic totes that we'll use at local packing parties.

This is where I ask myself why I actually bought almost 1800 of those when we didn't really use that many of them and probably never needed them.  I prayed before I bought them.  I can only conclude that God knew they'd be needed for someone else's boxes.  At least I hope that's a logical conclusion.

In fact, there seems to be a lot left over in this container.  We found five big boxes of boys' shirts, several more totes of girls' fashion accessories that I'm packing into boxes at home now, 600 more water bottles, and tons of nice visors that we'll save for next year.

It's hard to believe that after all my prayers and concern over not having enough items we end up with this surplus.  Who knows?  Maybe we'll be facing the apocalypse and everyone will need visors to survive?

Meanwhile, we still have  a lot of sorting and counting to do.  But there's always another day, because, as my mother would say--it's not going anywhere.