Randi Klepner has a vision.
As the aunt of a Marine corporal deployed twice in the past two years, Klepner, from Long Island, envisions what receiving a “Box of Love” care package from the Semper Fi Sisters must look like among the members of her nephew’s unit.
“I see sixth-graders around the playground trading,” Klepner said with a chuckle. “One is saying, ‘I got peanut butter again – want to trade?’ That’s how I envision it. I said that over the phone to my nephew and just laughed.
“The joy that it brings them, it is like Christmas.”
The Semper Fi Sisters, the women representing the loved ones in the lives of servicemen and women of all branches of the military, will be at again this Saturday when they seek to pack more than 1,000 “Boxes of Love” to be shipped to deployed soldiers.
The public can still donate at any local branch of Centennial Bank, Harold’s Auto Parts in Wewahitchka and The Star Newspaper in Port St. Joe. You can also visit www.semperfisisters.com.
The Saturday packing party – the public is invited to attend and participate between noon and 3 p.m. ET, with the Semper Fi Sister marketplace open and raffles throughout – is the exclamation point on the 4th Annual Beach Blast that brings the Semper Fi Sisters to Gulf County again.
The group has expanded, along with the volume of their packing.
The first year two dozen military spouses, aunts, sisters, mothers and grandmothers packed about three dozen boxes. The next year the numbers grew to nearly 40 sisters packing more than 350 boxes; last year the sisters packed an incredible 750 boxes.
Klepner recalled talking to Glenn Silva, who had attended the Wounded Warrior Weekend last year and watched the packing party with a look, Klepner said, of awe and wonderment.
“I told him how did he think those boxes got to him?” Klepner said of the 18-year Marine veteran wounded in Iraq. “Did you think somebody just reached up and pulled one down and sent it to you?’
Anyone showing up Saturday afternoon, including some of the songwriters from the Blast on the Bay Songwriters Festival, will see the precision drills needed to load 700 boxes – let alone 1,000.
Klepner is “Auntie Randi” primarily because during the past three SFS Beach Blasts, Klepner, a professional organizer and event planner, has become the guru of the goodies to be sent to the troops. She leads the organization of boxes, items to be packed and the resulting assembly line Henry Ford would admire.
“For us to be able to bring such happiness to them there is no amount of money you could put to it let alone an adjective,” Klepner said. “This is a labor of love. In your head you can see those happy faces.
“We really do very little to make them so happy.”
This year’s Beach Blast also includes a blood drive on Friday at WindMark Beach. You can make an appointment by going to www.nfbsdonor.org and enter code W6018 for military moms retreat and just show up – one pint saves three lives.