As the Independence Day holiday draws closer, one church in Georgia is continuing its annual tradition of collecting tons of Oreos to send to United States military personnel serving overseas.
Alpharetta First United Methodist Church has already collected as much as 3 tons of Oreos this year, with the final donations expected over the weekend, when the church holds its "Patriotic Sunday" worship services.
Beth Allain, communications director for Alpharetta First UMC, told The Christian Post that the numerous packages of Oreos will be placed around the altar for this coming Sunday's services.
Since the first "Operation Oreo" was performed in 2009, Allain explained that the church has received "letters from commanders and chaplains overseas every year requesting that their units be included."
"The word has spread about Operation Oreo among service members, who appreciate the cookies and tell their friends about the ministry," said Allain.
"In addition, church families and friends whose loved ones are deployed often ask for cookies to be sent to their family member or friend, and our Operation Oreo coordinators will contact those unit commanders to make sure it's okay to send the cookies. The Oreos are shipped to unit chaplains, who coordinate the distribution of the cookies."
The overall trend since 2009 has been that of growth in the amount of cookies sent overseas. 2013 was the first year they received more than a ton of Oreos.
In 2014, the total was 3.7 tons. The peak so far was in 2015, when they sent 5.64 tons of Oreos. Last year, the amount was slightly lower at around 5 tons.
In addition to members of Alpharetta First UMC, "Operation Oreo" has also received cookie donations and money to cover shipping costs from churches throughout the UMC's North Georgia Annual Conference.
Allain explained to CP that the donation drive has "grown into a community-wide effort," as "families not affiliated with the church drop off Oreos during the week, and a number of area businesses also participate."
As with past years, the church expects to see social media posts from military personnel in July as the packages get to their intended locations.
"Our goal is simply to say thank you to the men and women who are deployed so far away from home in the service of our nation. We want them to know that they are appreciated and that they are in our prayers," said Allain.
"Every package of Oreos we ship will have a note of appreciation or encouragement attached to it, so the troops will not only have a taste of home, but a personalized word of thanks."