Since its beginning eight years ago, members of the local Project Parachute have mailed 7,700 boxes and packages to deployed soldiers serving abroad. The organization is sponsored by the Harmony Baptist Association and takes in 27 area churches.
Project Parachute is now looking to the local community to submit names of family and friends in the United States military forces who are deployed overseas.
“In April 2008, we made our first shipment,” Lonnie DeVorss, project coordinator, said. “What we do, is we put together gift boxes at least six times a year to deployed soldiers; they have to be overseas. Everything is free, and it’s all sponsored by 27 Baptist churches. It’s open to anybody.”
“There are 27 Southern Baptist churches in Pettis County,” Dr. Daryl Stagg, director of missions at Harmony Baptist, said. “I just want to commend Lonnie and her team for doing such a great job in our churches. She started in 2008 and I was just here the last three years. This has been going on before me, and I’ll support their efforts.”
DeVorss said in 2008 five people met and talked about how to start the program.
“(We) saw a need,” she added. “We discussed how we wanted to meet that need. It’s a group of volunteers from several of theses churches and we meet five or six times a year. We will pick a theme for the box and all these churches make cookies, candy, donate homemade cards and little kids make craft items. That all goes in the boxes and we ship them overseas.
“Since 2008, we’ve roughly shipped 7,700 boxes and packages,” she added. “We have supported chaplains over there by sending two and three boxes to them and they can distribute it to guys we don’t even know. Some of our regular volunteers, like Vera Fox’s Sunday School class at First Baptist, they make 30 dozen cookies.”
Children at New Hope Baptist church make Valentine cards each year for soldiers.
“Some churches donate money, like Memorial Baptist Church, Providence, Lamine and Calvary,” Devorss said. “Then everybody donates cookies and candy. Out of 27 churches, sometimes I’ll have churches from 17 to 20 that help pack the boxes.”
She also wanted to thank sponsors Katy Park Baptist, First Baptist and New Hope Baptist for their efforts in the project.
What started out as five people tossing over ideas has now turned into a dozen who show up regularly and up to 30 and 40 volunteers, from 20 different churches, who come to help pack boxes during holidays.
The group also remembers local veterans each year.
“We also recognize our local veterans,” DeVorss said. “We’ve passed out things in the past to the nursing home veterans.”
In November, Project Parachute, in conjunction with Veterans Day, passes out pie and coffee to area vets.
“On Nov. 7 we’ll be giving away free pie and coffee to every veteran that comes in out at North 65 Cafe,” she added. “We purchase the pie and we’ll be doing that again this Nov. 7.”
DeVorss said she wants the public to know Project Parachute is open for all deployed soldiers, not just those of the Baptist faith.
“We want the public to know, they don’t have to pay anything, if they want their loved one or friend or neighbor on our mailing list all they have to do is call the Harmony Association office,” she added. “That’s our biggest need; we need names. It’s not that we need more funds or that we need more cookies. We’re ready, we just need more soldiers. We know they’re out there.”
Those who wish to nominate a deployed soldier only need to provide this information:
• The soldier’s name.
• The caller’s name so the soldier will recognize the package.
• The soldier’s deployed address.
• The soldier’s birth date.
• The month and date of the soldier’s approximate return.
“We ask for no local information,” DeVorss added. “Because we make no contact when they get home. We’re just trying to say thank you. That’s all we want to do, is say thank you and that we remember. That’s our motto; ‘We Remember.’”
Those who wish to provide a soldier’s name for Project Parachute may call Harmony Baptist Association Administrative Assistant Anita Jordan at 826-2070.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 826-1000 ext. 1481 or @flbemiss.