It all started a year and a half ago when Jamie Dean’s grandson wanted to join the Marine Corps. She didn’t think he should do it saying, “I cried, I begged I pleaded and I tried to bribe him with a new car, I was devastated.”
Dean was in the hospital when she heard the news, recovering from an extensive surgery. Eventually, she recovered and watched her grandson get on the bus and drive away.
But everything changed for her when he earned the title Marine. “My heart was overwhelmed with such pride and love, but also seeing the changes in him… from a young high school boy into a young man with such pride, discipline, and morals,” recalls Dean.
Dean turned to social media to find support and ended up creating a small business to fill a need. Dean didn’t heal as quickly as she wanted after her surgery, so she started RyanRae’s Creations to help pay the bills after a Marine MoM asked her to make a custom teddy bear that wouldn’t break the bank. She also began selling banners, quilts, and totes for military family members.
Next Dean started a small non-profit called StrawBerry Moon, an organization which brings home-baked treats and food to surprise the Marines stationed at Fort Lee, Virginia, an Army base. She got the idea after reading how ladies in 29 Palms baked goodies for their Marines (The Busiest Bee Hive), her grandson being the recipient of one of them.
Dean’s gone on to create birthday cakes, cupcakes, cookies. She even takes Marines the meal they miss the most from home.
Here’s how it works: The order is placed online, usually by a mother of a Marine. They can even provide a recipe if it’s something special. Next, Dean tallies up the cost of the ingredients and sends the loved one an invoice through PayPal.
Dean then reaches out to the Marine and sets up a date and time with them for a delivery. But there’s a catch, she says. “The only thing is they have to promise me a picture!” says Dean.
It’s a huge win for both the Marine and the family member, and it’s all about paying it forward.
“I love how much joy it brings to the Marine to know that someone cares so much about them, that they’re willing to bring a piece of home to them. Of course, the bonus is that the loved ones are thrilled to see a current picture of their Marine, knowing that they are safe and happy,” says Dean.
People are reaching out to Dean to discover more about how they can get involved, and possibly start an organization at another base. The best advice she has for people is to find resources; to discover groups on social media and ask to help spread the word and share stories.
Dean says, “Get a base pass and a good camera. Then shop, put that apron on and start cooking and baking! Since I haven’t spent much time in the kitchen, pricing was the hardest for me, because I didn’t know the cost of supplies. I’m learning as I go… but the main thing organizers need to know is, that this has to be done from the heart; that’s what matters the most.”
A few last minute tips, in the words of Jamie Dean:
· A good map or knowledge of base is wise; I’ve gotten lost too many times. GPS doesn’t work if the base has the roads closed for some reason! My first delivery was a birthday Black Forest Cake with whipped cream icing. My AC died and I couldn’t get on base… the cake melted everywhere! I had to go home and re-do the whole thing and get my brother to go deliver it for me in his air conditioned car!
· Get friends to help. I have a friend that loves to bake and she’s trying to learn how to sew. We have baking/sewing days.
· Start and use a spreadsheet! It’s confusing when you have MoM’s info and the Marine’s info.
· Get cute but simple cards for notes from the family with the Marine’s name on it. I make mine from scrapbook paper.
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