ALPHARETTA, Ga. – For anyone wondering what more than 5 tons of Oreo cookies looks like, ask the congregation of the Alpharetta First United Methodist Church.
With strong community support, Alpharetta First UMC collected 5.64 tons of Oreos for U.S. service members stationed in the Middle East. It was a record number for the church, which has conducted “Operation Oreo” every summer since 2009. This year’s goal was 4 tons of cookies, but a strong outpouring of support from local businesses, churches and individuals pushed the final cookie count well past the original target.
“The community and Alpharetta Methodist are to be applauded for their generous gift to the troops in the Middle East,” said Senior Pastor Dr. Don Martin. “These Oreos are a sweet and tangible sign of our love and support for the brave men and women who serve in a dangerous land. May God protect them until they come home to a grateful nation.”
The Oreos were shipped to chaplains in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait, who will distribute them to men and women stationed at outposts in those countries. Alpharetta Methodist also sent some of the Oreos to service members aboard two floating medical treatment facilities, the USNS Comfort, stationed in the waters of the Middle East, and the USNS Mercy, currently in the Pacific Ocean.
The church asked its congregation and the community to donate Oreos throughout the month of June. The cookie drive culminated with patriotic worship services on Sunday, June 28. Stacks of Oreo packages surrounded the altar, while the choir and orchestra played patriotic music and military veterans were recognized.
The Abiding in the Vine Sunday School class packed the Oreos for shipment. Two members of the class, Gordon Barber and Mike Rademacher, spent many months coordinating the project and working with the military to identify units to receive the cookies.
“This has been a tremendous team effort. The generosity of the community has been overwhelming while the volunteerism shown is unparalleled,” said Barber.
Congregations at Chamblee, Roswell, North Springs, Mt. Pisgah, Bethelview, Cannon and Simpsonwood United Methodist Churches collected hundreds of packages each. In addition, members of Boy Scouts Troop 69 and Cub Scout Pack 459 donated cookies and wrote thank you notes. A note was attached to nearly every package of Oreos sent.
Operation Oreo began in 2009 with a chance encounter between Dr. Martin and a young soldier aboard a plane. The soldier was returning from duty in Iraq. When Dr. Martin asked him what he missed most while away, the young man replied, without hesitation, “Oreos, Double Stuf!” Every summer since then, AFUMC has collected and shipped packages of Oreos to service men and women overseas to say thank you by giving them a little taste of home, in the form of cookies.
Last year’s cookie drive also had strong community support, helping the church collect 3.7 tons of Oreos for service members stationed at five forward operating bases in Afghanistan.
Alpharetta Methodist is located at 69 North Main Street in downtown Alpharetta. For more information about Operation Oreo, please visit afumc.org/oreo.