Local business sends pieces of home

Cathy George regularly mails boxes to military personnel on deployment as part of Burley Funeral Chapel’s Pieces of Home project. Kathy Reed/Whidbey Crosswind

For anyone who regularly ships care packages to family or friends serving abroad, you know it gets spendy. That’s where an Oak Harbor business can lend a hand.

“Fill the box, address it, and we’ll pay the postage,” said Jim Haddon, manager of Burley Funeral Chapel on SE Ely Street.

For nearly four years, Haddon and office manager Cathy George have overseen their company’s “pieces of home” project. Folks fill medium, flat-rate, priority boxes from the U.S. Postal Service with items, address the box, fill out the necessary customs forms, and bring it to the funeral chapel. George and Haddon take it from there.

“We try to mail them at least once a week,” said George, who has had to bring as many as 100 boxes to the post office at one time. “ My longest receipt stretched from the floor to the top of my head.”

Cathy George, office manager at Burley Funeral Chapel in Oak Harbor, loads boxes on a cart to bring them into the post office. The chapel pays the cost of mailing care packages to deployed military. Kathy Reed/Whidbey Crosswind

“We love it,” agreed Haddon. “We see wives, girlfriends and kids come in here with boxes and they’re just so pleased. That’s $9 they don’t have to spend. That’s $9 they can put toward another expense or spend filling the box.”

In fact, the cost to ship a medium flat-rate, priority box is $10.95. Haddon estimates the chapel mails 400 to 500 boxes a year. Holidays such as Christmas and Valentine’s Day see the heaviest volume, but packages come in steadily throughout the year. The cost to the company, said Haddon, is worth it.

“We believe in putting back into the community,” he explained. “It feels good to do something for folks that makes a difference. We are honored, privileged, to do so.”

While the funeral chapel never puts its return address on the boxes, a feedback form included inside the box does list contact information. It was enough for one recipient to track George down and thank her when he got home.

“He and his wife brought me a pie,” she said, blinking back tears. The feedback keeps George excited about the program. “I get emails from people telling me how much they appreciate it, and from people who come in to drop off packages. The kids are so excited to be sending something to Daddy.”

Items most often requested include letters, coffee and baby wipes. If the package is being sent to the Middle East, do not send pork, pork by-products, fruit or yeast. George and Haddon also caution against sending chocolate, because it melts, and soap, because the smell can permeate the the entire contents of the package. Most helpful, though, is that the boxes are addressed and the customs forms completed before dropping them off at the chapel.

Starter kits are available at Burley Funeral Chapel and include the box, a list of approved goodies, customs forms and instructions. Boxes and customs forms are also available at the post office.

Drop off your filled, addressed, medium flat-rate priority boxes and completed customs forms at:
Burley Funeral Chapel
30 SE Ely Street
Oak Harbor