It's called "A Soldier's Hands."
It all started when Trish Shallenberger of Yardley, Pa. noticed a young soldier's hands on an airline flight six years ago.
"They were red and had huge blisters," she said.
Trish was returning home from a Mary Kay conference and was seated next to a 19-year old man in Army fatigues who was on his way to Fort Dix to prepare for deployment to Iraq.
"I knew someone on that plane would have Mary Kay hand cream, because we were full of Mary Kay consultants," said Trish.
She offered the cream to the appreciative soldier, and before they landed she promised to ship him, and his unit, more.
"And then I said, 'How many are in your unit?' And he said 177, and I said . . . well, you know what I said. 'Holy Moley!'"
She enlisted the help of family and friends and went to work. Members of her Bible study group got involved.
Sharon Ziemer, for one, told me she was on board right away, "just imagining what they go through over there in that heat! I just wanted to help any way I could."
And less than four months later, 177 packages arrived in Iraq.
"I think he was a little surprised that I followed through," said Trish.
Each gift has hand lotion, sunscreen and lip balm, but also hard candy and handwritten notes from local residents, like one from a 5th grader, which reads in part, "Every day you risk your life. You are so special to me. Sincerely, Jillian."
"I think that's just as important as the product," said Trish, "because it's the human element."
The letter from the young soldier showed how grateful he was. "The happiness I saw on some of the guys here, I have never seen before," he wrote.
Last weekend, Trish sent part of an 800-package shipment to a full battalion in Afghanistan.
She thought it might be her last, but now she says," I don't feel there's any choice to stop."
She hopes her once-small project will become a registered charity that will spread love, to many more soldiers.
Send donations to:
600 Leslie Lane
Yardley, PA 19067
For more info, email firstname.lastname@example.org .