PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. --
Many teenagers might spend the majority of their time playing videogames or hanging out with friends, but one 13-year-old girl spends much of her time helping others.
Janey Turner, a ninth grader at Easley High School, created Hands For Soldiers, a volunteer operation aimed toward improving troop morale. She has spent the past six years putting together what she likes to call “handy bags,” and sending them to military bases and deployed troops.
“I pack each little ‘handy bag’ with tooth paste, a tooth brush, a comb, pens, notepads, some shampoo and candy,” said Janey Turner, from Easley, S.C. “I send my baggies out to all the branches of service. It’s like I’m giving a helping hand to the troops.”
To further show her appreciation for the troops, Janey Turner adds her own personal touch to each bag.
“On the outside of the bag, I tie a little note that says, ‘Thank you for your service. You deserve a big hand. Love, Janey,’” she said.
Janey Turner said she came up with the idea of the Hands For Soldiers program when her school created a program handing out bags to only seven soldiers at a time. She said she didn’t want some troops to get packages in a unit while the others received nothing
Janey Turner’s mother, Jane, said when her daughter first came up with the idea, she wanted to use her allowance to cover the cost. “It was hard to explain to an eight-year old that her allowance just wouldn’t cover it,” said Jane Turner, also of Easley, S.C. “So now we set up a booth at festivals and ask for donations.”
Since the beginning of Janey Turner’s program, she has sent out approximately 14,000 packages to troops across America and on deployments. Janey Turner said she has brought 275 handy bags to Parris Island in two trips. A total of 75 bags went to the Military Police, and the other 200 went to different units all over Parris Island.
One Marine, Sgt. Donald Taylor, a marksmanship coach on Chosin Range, who knows Janey Turner from church, said the Marines he was on deployment with were thankful for the gifts.
“She sent me the baggies on my first deployment to Iraq,” said Taylor, of Greenville, S.C., who deployed from of Camp Lejeune, N.C. “She sent five boxes out to my unit, and the troops were really appreciative of the bags. They were gone within the first couple of hours. They were really surprised when they found out she was only eight years old at the time.”
Taylor said the items stuffed in the bags were very handy to his unit while they
“The bags would be stuffed with shampoo, chapstick, gum and sunscreen – stuff we didn’t have that were useful during deployment,” he explained.
“It really meant a lot to us. It’s a little thing to remind us we’re not forgotten,” Taylor said. “It had to be a lot of work for a kid that age to put together bags for a bunch of Marines that were overseas.”
Currently, Janey Turner is working to send 100 handy bags to Fort Lewis, Wash., and is sending 25 to Iraq.
Right now Jane Turner said her daughter doesn’t have any plans to stop sending the handy bags. She said as long as there are troops who are deployed, she’ll keep making them.