‘Operation Red, White & Blue’ hits CTS

December 7, 2018

Core Technology Services brings the holiday spirit – and some snacks – to service members


‘Tis the season to be generous, and Core Technology Services staff has embraced that spirit. For the seventh year running, a team effort has put together numerous care packages for service members.

CTS Business Analyst Angela O’Leary organizes the effort, which has grown significantly over the years.

“My husband Sean and I started Operation Red, White and Blue about seven years ago by collecting donated items from colleagues and friends around the community and sending packages to people we knew that were deployed oversees,” O’Leary said. “It all started when my sister was deployed to Kuwait as a flight nurse and asked what items I could send her. She mentioned that she didn’t need anything but there were troops who don’t have families that do not receive anything, not a card or letter or packages. We went from sending six packages our first year to sending 68 total this year.”

From early on, it didn’t take much for others to want to get in on the holiday giving.

“[Last year] Staff Senate offered to get involved and sponsor the event and I happily accepted, being a senator at the time,” O’Leary said. “LM Wind Power, my husband’s employer, also offered to partner with North Dakota University System and collect items and help pack. This year we had local dental offices donate toothbrushes, paste and floss and Hugo’s family marketplace (six locations) allowed us to place boxes in their stores, and a small business out of Maricopa, Arizona, donate painted these rocks and included a message, she did over 40 of them.”

In order to get the donations, an announcement was made throughout CTS and system office. From there, it was a matter of gathering materials together and then shipping them out. Items typically sent include sunscreen, women’s hygiene products, deodorant, body wash, Kleenex, hand wipes, hair spray, detergent, Q-tips, Chapstick, bobby pins, manicure sets, mouthwash, socks, cross word puzzles,  cards, dice, microwaveable popcorn, hard candy, jerky, peanuts, cheese/crackers, granola bars crystal light, instant coffee, and prepackaged cookies.

Once all the donations are gathered, it’s time to box them up.

“We actually order military boxes from the USPS,” O’Leary said. “You can order the boxes and ship to your office at no charge, they are free. We line up all the goodies by category and create an assembly line, then we have someone line the boxes with tissue paper, we have packers then go down the line and start filling the boxes. We have sticky notes by each item that states quantity of each goes into the box. Then we have a few people sealing the boxes and added the labels. Last step, about three of us load the boxes and take them to the post office to ship.”

Bismarck was able to send out 25 packages this year to Marines. O’Leary added that this year, MDU partnered with the Bismarck location and was “very generous” with donations of cash for shipping and donations.

“Patty Shock was leading the charge from that site and did a wonderful job,” she noted. “They had originally planned to send out 10 packages, but because of the amount of donations, they were able to send out 25.”

Additionally, the Grand Forks and Fargo teams sent 43 packages out to Army, Navy and Air Force personnel. To get the care packages where they need to be, O’Leary said they utilize a website set up for just that purpose: http://anysoldier.com/WhereToSend/.

Vice Chancellor of Information Technology/Chief Information Officer Darin King said that the effort proved the selflessness of the CTS team.

“We have some of the best team members around, and it really shows at times like this,” King said. “When your staff comes together so effortlessly for projects like this, it’s proof of the generous spirit of the people we work with every day.”

O’Leary said staff seemed to really enjoy the project.

“We had more this year help pack the boxes than we had any other year, pretty exciting, it’s a way NDUS to give back to our military,” she added. “Senior Staff really step up with support and encouragement of the initiative.

“Last year someone who received one of our packages tracked my name to social media and sent video and pictures of a few military members receiving packages,” O’Leary added. “That was a pretty special moment. Many of these men and women do not get anything for the holidays and glad we can put a smile on their faces.”