Operation Treat

It’s Halloween in the desert! 100 deployed Airmen and Soldiers just went “trick or treating” thanks to my family and friends helping with a group care package. Everyone who participated really had a great time. It was mostly smooth sailing with, of course, the occasional lesson learned along the way. Here’s how it went:

Generous people. Bulk candy. 

Thanks to the group effort we were able get 80 pounds of candy! This included 27 pounds of m&m’s with 17 pounds of them personalized. The rest of the candy we bought in bulk from Amazon. Since we were mailing these before “chocolate season” (November to April) we made sure the rest of the candy was NOT chocolate—just in case the m&m’s melted, something would get there intact. I’m happy to report that everything arrived in a solid state.

personalized m&m's for halloween care package for deployed troops

This is what we had made for them.

bags of personalized m&m's

27 pounds of m&m’s and untold amounts of willpower to resist “sampling” any.

bulk candy mixed and stored in plastic bins for halloween project

As each bulk candy came in, we mixed it with the rest and stored in these bins until we were ready.

The lesson on this part was: if you’re going to have 80 pounds of candy in the house and you live with a child, remember to have candy on hand your kid CAN eat. We ran out of chocolate and Starburst (important food groups!) and I kept forgetting to get more because we were surrounded by sweets. My daughter Sofia got great at “quality control”….peering through the plastic and declaring, “that one looks damaged. We can’t send it. Can I have it?”

Toys and decorations

Toys have always been a care package hit. Since this unit has both Air Force and Army, we got bat gliders and skeleton paratroopers to represent each. We also bought temporary tattoos because nothing says fearless warrior like washable ink.

And, since Halloween serving platters are not standard issue supplies for troops, we made our own by decorating the inside flaps of the boxes with orange and black duct tape. We also added purple tissue paper that you’ll see at the end.

halloween theme temporary tattoos and orange and black tape to decorate boxes

I really hope these temporary tattoos get used 🙂

Skeleton paratroopers.

Skeleton paratroopers.

Bat gliders for halloween theme military care pacakge

Bat gliders

flat-rate box decorated with duct tape for halloween care package

The kids made each box different, some solid, some patterns.

The assembly line & safety first

The boys started with the bulk bins and used measuring cups to scoop up the candy and fill the main treat bag. They also added the skeleton paratroopers and tattoos. When they finished that, they started decorating boxes with duct tape.

The girls worked on the m&m’s and put them in treat bags that we had made special stickers for. When they finished that they started on the Halloween and thank you signs.

Since the m&m’s were unwrapped candy, I had them wear FDA approved food safety gloves. In fact, the entire project started with me announcing: We cannot risk crippling force strength by exporting hardcore New York City Public School germs. Yes they laughed—and then washed their hands.

The one thing I wish I did here was double-check supplies before we started. When I grabbed all the boxes from the Post Office, I didn’t realize there were some Express Mail mixed in with the Priority. Noticing at the last minute, I had to run out and get the right ones.

bulk candy for treat bags

mixing the personalized m&m's in a bowl

We mixed the different m&m’s in the big bowl. But needed a more shallow bowl to be able to scoop.

personalized treat bag

This smaller treat bag went inside the bigger one. But it still thought it was boss. We had these stickers made. The skull and crossbones image is part of one of the unit patches for this joint forces team.

numerous treat bags

Progress…

treat bags in bins

more progress…

treats in bins

and more…

halloween decorations and thank you signs for military care package

They did a nice job with the signs 🙂

Pizza picnic

Since treat production took up most of my small apartment, I put a plastic picnic tablecloth on my daughter’s bedroom floor and served pizza and beverages there. There were no complaints from the workforce.

Say yes to help

Everything about this project was easy—until you times it by 100. Having help made all the difference, from the generous donations to production day with six great kids. One Mom volunteered to stay as long as I needed. I gratefully said yes and she brought a bottle of wine too. I should’ve asked her from the beginning but that’s my personal lesson to learn (over and over, apparently).

When it was getting late I decided that I would tie up the treat bags and pack them myself. Just then the doorbell rang. The mom and big brother of one the girls had come to pick her up. I had never met them before and within one minute they were both on the floor tying up bags—they said they were inspired by what we were doing and happily stayed an extra hour.

And earlier when another mom dropped off her daughter, she took one look around and came back with a small shopping cart to help us get everything to the Post Office. NYC is a walking kind of town and the Post Office is eight blocks away. Four of the kids came back the next morning to be the shipping team.

11 care packages to carry to Post Office

11 flat-rate boxes

The end results

We all had so much fun. The kids felt good doing good. And Sofia made me laugh for weeks as candy and supplies took over our home. She would look at all the candy she couldn’t have, then look at the reams of bubble wrap she couldn’t pop and then give me a “really?” look with a straight line for a smile and hold it until I cracked up.

Of course the real end result is how happy it made the troops we sent it to. The m&m’s were especially loved and multiple bat gliders and skeletons have already been launched. So both home and away, Operation Treat was a success!

treat bag and bat glider for halloween care package

What each troop got.

treat bags packed in decorated box

We added bubble wrap to fill any gaps so the bags wouldn’t move in shipping. We didn’t want to be candy crushed 🙂

© Gina left the mall, 2016