What do real estate agents and gardeners have in common?

Real Estate Agent with Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.

What do real estate agents and gardeners
have in common? 

In Crofton, Maryland, the agents and staff at Long & Foster Real Estate and the members of Crofton Village Garden Club come together to build holiday gift bags for deployed troops. We call this joint effort Operation Christmas.

It all began when I read about Operation Give, a non-profit organization that sends overseas everything from Christmas stockings for the troops to soccer balls for kids. Thanks to the generosity of FedEx, donors could send items to Operation Give without any shipping cost and that organization, in turn, would distribute donated items around the world. 

The first carton of holiday gift bags was done in 2006 with help from agents in my small RE/MAX office. When I switched to Long & Foster two years later, agents and staff at the larger office enthusiastically embraced my project and we sent five cartons (100 gift bags) to Operation Give. Then I mentioned Operation Christmas at a garden club meeting and members started dropping off bags of goodies at my front door and handing me checks... enough to send double the number of gift bags the following year. (However, that was such a storage and logistical nightmare that now we're back to 100 per year with any extra donated items or money sent directly to Operation Give.)

Operation Christmas, Crofton, MD

After ten years of doing this project, it runs like a smooth military operation, with gift items and financial donations coming from both organizations, Long & Foster providing the facilities for storing and assembling everything, and garden club members filling the bags. No two bags are exactly alike, although each has something from each of the following categories:

  • Socks
  • Candy (bags of individually wrapped assorted candies or bubble gum)
  • Healthy Snacks (Nature Valley Granola bars or nuts or fruit snacks)
  • Toiletries (We fill small cellophane bags with 2-packs of aspirin, lip balm, safety pins, band-aid packs, and a travel-size of either mouth wash or hand sanitizer or Gold Bond powder)
  • Tissues and/or wipes
  • Puzzle books with mechanical pencils taped to the back
  • Unique gifts (paperback books donated by Crofton Library or flashlight or manicure kit or reading light)
  • Toys or gag gifts (beach ball or deck of cards or puzzle or magic trick or whoopi cushion or harmonica)
  • Hand-signed greeting cards from Long & Foster and the Crofton Village Garden Club

Operation Christmas, Crofton, MD

A few of us count and sort everything in advance, and our assembly line operation around a large conference table takes only about an hour. The contents of each bag are secured with a layer of folded tissue paper and jingle bells hang from ribbon which ties together the handles. 


FedEx no longer covers the shipping cost to send our holiday gift bags to Operation Give, so we'll have to pay for that ourselves this year. I sure hope that FedEx reconsiders in the future because their generosity is the primary reason I was able to get this project off the ground ten years ago and sustain it for a decade. We love doing Operation Christmas for our troops, and we love hearing from a few recipients each year.


Hi! My name is xxxx xxxxxx and I am stationed in Afghanistan, working with the U.S. Army in Kabul. On Christmas morning I was going to the gym, when I passed by some soldiers passing out gift bags. I gratefully took one and opened it just a short time later.
I just wanted to take a few minutes to thank you for the generous donations you made to the men and women who are serving in the U.S. military. Your gifts made so many people smile today. Although we cannot be home with our families and friends during the holiday season, your kind thoughts definitely made our day a little bit brighter. We will surely remember you all as we put those items to good use. Please share our gratitude with everyone who made this possible.
Thanks again, and we hope you had a Merry Christmas!
Posted by

This infoMargaret Wodarmation was provided to you by Margaret Woda, an Associate Broker with Long & Foster Real Estate in Crofton Maryland. Contact Margaret today for general real estate information or to learn how she can help you buy or sell a home in Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton, Davidsonville, Gambrills, and Odenton. 

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Re-Blogged 1 time:

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  1. Carpet Connection 10/20/2015 01:05 AM
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operation christmas
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Ralph Gorgoglione
Maui Life Homes / Metro Life Homes - Kihei, HI
Hawaii and California Real Estate (310) 497-9407

How cool is that?  What a wonderful effort to be a part of.

Oct 20, 2015 01:14 AM #4
Bruce Kunz
C21 Solid Gold Realty, Brick, NJ, 732-920-2100 - Howell, NJ
REALTOR®, Brick & Howell NJ Homes for Sale

It's a great project and certainly shows appreciation to our troops. Hopefully FedEx will reconsider to make it more accessible to those who must be away from home.

Kudos to you and your group Margaret Woda .

Oct 20, 2015 01:33 AM #5
Les & Sarah Oswald
Realty One Group - Eastvale, CA
Broker, Realtor and Investor

Margaret Woda - Kudos to you and your garden group. I hope many will pick up on your example and start up their own little group to help Operation Give.

"Sending smile and hope. One gift at a time."

Oct 20, 2015 01:49 AM #6
L. Scott Ferguson
Ask4Ferguson - Your House-SOLD Name in Real Estate - West Palm Beach, FL
Sunny Florida Real Estate Professional

What a phenomenal idea and analogy!  Love the energy you put out in your writing!

Oct 20, 2015 01:49 AM #7
Doyle Davison
Hawaiian Beaches Hawaii - 714-968-6767 - Huntington Beach, CA
30 years as your Concierge services listing broker

I have not had very good luck with FedEx. they contract out a lot of their business. I hope this year is good to our service members, 10 years is a long term commitment.

Oct 20, 2015 02:06 AM #8
Sybil Campbell
Long and Foster REALTORS® 5234 Monticello Ave Williamsburg, Virginia - Williamsburg, VA
REALTOR® ABR, SFR, SRES Williamsburg, Virginia

Margaret, what a worthy cause and a great thing you are doing with Operation Christmas!

Oct 20, 2015 02:26 AM #9
Mike Frazier
Carousel Realty of Dyer County - Dyersburg, TN
Northwest Tennessee Realtor

Margaret, what an excellent way to give back to those who give so much for us.

Oct 20, 2015 03:39 AM #10
Kathleen Daniels
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
San Jose Homes for Sale-Probate & Trust Specialist

Margaret, I have a huge knot in my throat ...and my eyes are welled with tears.  This is such a wonderful thing to do.

Shame on FedEx for no longer covering the shipping costs. I hope they reconsider that decision. Thank you and all those who support you in your effort to keep this gift giving going.

Oct 20, 2015 03:41 AM #11
Brian L. Sirota, Esq.
Bristar Realty (Realtor/Attorney) - Orange, CA
For Solutions: (714) 501-7660

Margaret, I love this......   when an RPG doesn't do the trick, break out the whoopi cushion and embarrass the enemy into submission. ;-)

Oct 20, 2015 04:19 AM #12
Caroline Gerardo
Pinnacle Home Loans - Newport Beach, CA
C. G. Barbeau the Loan Lady nmls 324982

Wow this is a great project and your photographs and description inspiring!

Oct 20, 2015 04:36 AM #13
Roy Kelley
Realty Group Referrals - Gaithersburg, MD

Thank you very much for telling us about this wonderful project.

Oct 20, 2015 05:27 AM #14
Margaret Woda
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. - Crofton, MD
Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation

Thanks, Caroline. Glad you enjoyed it.

Oct 20, 2015 05:31 AM #15
Donna Foerster
HomeSmart Realty Group - Parker, CO
Metro Denver Real Estate Assistant

Margaret, that's a great reason to get together! It's fun, easy and fulfilling. Life doesn't get much better than that!

Oct 20, 2015 05:34 AM #16
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Home Stager

I recently had a long talk with my daughter's friend who was in Afghanistan and has been on the receiving end of this kind of giving. He couldn't say enough how much receiving care packages like this meant to him.

Oct 20, 2015 05:54 AM #17
Vera Gonzalez
RE/MAX Suburban, Inc. - Sterling Heights, MI
Gonzo For Real Estate

This is amazing Margaret Woda ! Kudos to all  of you. 

Oct 20, 2015 06:47 AM #18
Praful Thakkar
LAER Realty Partners - Andover, MA
Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale

Margaret Woda what a great way to 'Give' and great name - Operation Give!

I think FedEx also should 'Give' their share by not charging for the shipment.

Keep up the great work that you have been doing it for a decade.

Oct 20, 2015 02:55 PM #19
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

The Margaret Woda or woda way at work and ...it does work too

Oct 21, 2015 12:13 AM #20
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Margaret, what a great way to give back!  Kudos!

Nov 02, 2015 11:02 AM #21
Joe Petrowsky
Mortgage Consultant, Right Trac Financial Group, Inc. NMLS # 2709 - Manchester, CT
Your Mortgage Consultant for Life

Good morning Margaret.How wonderful, my compliments to you and your team for making a difference in the lives of others.

Nov 21, 2015 09:44 PM #22
Kelly Hagglund
The Kelly Group Real Estate - Newberg, OR
SW Portland Real Estate Expert

So much generosity! Thank you for sharing about the work you have done to lighten the lives of others!

Dec 23, 2015 07:50 AM #23
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Margaret Woda

Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation
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