The boxes are piling up and the love is pouring in.
To understand, just browse through the conference room at the newspaper, which has been for the past few years a depository for all things Boxes of Love and Semper Fi Sisters.
The Sisters, who will begin to arrive in two weeks, will finish their annual Beach Blast, their fifth, on Oct. 19 with a packing party for Boxes of Love.
Those boxes, and the aim is to top last year’s 1,200, will be sent to deployed soldiers overseas, particularly Afghanistan and Iraq.
And as happens as the weeks wind down, the UPS and Fed Ex delivery folks are carting in to the office boxes of increasing size and quantity.
From Long Island, NY to Mullen, NE Grand Rapids, Mich, with a bit of Easton, PA and Savannah, GA in the mix.
And those are the boxes among the stacks for which we can actually make out the labels.
Locals are on board to as Centennial Bank branches put up donation boxes and the Piggly Wiggly and Harold’s Auto Parts become part of the drive.
“We have received generous support and donations from the VFW and American Legion here in Port St. Joe,” said Semper Fi Sisters president Brenda Garth.
The Sisters raffled a GPS fish finder at the Gulf County Sheriff’s Office Bass Tournament, the proceeds helping to ship as many as 50 boxes overseas.
The local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution provided postage funds.
Preston Russ with Coastal Realty and Brian and Scott of Coastal Joe Vacation Rentals joined to donated a welcome to Gulf County lunch and afternoon treats for the arriving Sisters on Oct. 16.
And for the fifth consecutive year Smiley’s Beach Rentals will roll out the complementary beach chairs and umbrellas for the Sisters.
“George Duren will continue to support our efforts and Forgotten Coast Highway donated some bright beachwear and bags for our annual basket raffle, which helps raise funds for shipping the Boxes of Love,” Garth said.
Laura Adams of Dog Grooming Plus is collecting funds for items specifically requested for military working dogs and their handlers.
As always, on packing day, the Semper Fi Sisters will host their Market Place at the Centennial Building offering a variety of crafts and wares for sale, assisting with postage.
And, of course, the Basket Raffle.
The city of Port St. Joe lends support with the use of the Centennial Building for the packing party and the Gulf County Tourist Development Council provided grant support.
Lest any forget the impact of those Boxes of Love on the troops, consider Sarah House, a Port St. Joe native soon to be deployed to Afghanistan for the second time.
“Like most care packages that are received (Boxes of Love) are always shared,” House wrote in an email from California. “We’re all family. It is always a good day when we get mail. Everyone anticipates mail day, it is almost like Christmas. It is a huge morale booster.
“Honestly, we appreciate anyone and everyone what supports us. Whether it is by sending packages, cards or just sending up an extra prayer at night or during the day for us. It reminds what and who we fight for, why we wear this uniform and what makes our country so great. The biggest thing I can say to our supporters is thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Donations for the Boxes of Love can be dropped off at any branch of Centennial Bank, Piggly Wiggly in Port St. Joe, Harold’s Auto Parts in Wewahitchka.
An account to help defray shipping costs for the Boxes of Love has been set up at Centennial Bank.