To keep her hands and her mind busy while her son, Army Pvt. Michael Bayless, is deployed in Afghanistan, Sandra Emmons sends care packages to him and his buddies.
“People forget Afghanistan. We are still at war. I put yellow ribbons on the neighbors’ trees and fence posts to show support for the troops,” said Emmons, of Sierra Drive.
“I just want people to recognize that the troops have needs,” she said.
Emmons said the care-package idea was born when she was in bed one night trying to think of something to do to keep busy and at the same time help the troops.
Since starting Support Our Soldiers in May, she has sent eight care packages. The boxes cost about $20 each to fill and an additional $15 to $17 in postage.
Determined to expand the project, she is enlisting the help of family, friends and neighbors and now the community.
“I use donations to help buy items to ship, and I pay the postage,” she said. When items are purchased with donations, she puts the names of the donors on the box, she said.
Items needed by the troops include baby wipes, toothbrushes, toilet paper, dental floss, cotton swabs, foot powder and anti-itch cream, said Emmons.
In her last care package, she sent a coffee maker with cups, creamers, sweeteners and coffee.
At this point, Emmons said it has been mainly family and neighbors participating, but she is hoping to attract more individual and business sponsors throughout the area. Individuals who adopt a month and pledge items for a box that month receive a Support Our Soldiers campaign T-shirt designed by Knightline Embroidery & Screenprinting in Girard.
For information on how to participate, call Emmons at 330-207-2539.
Businesses that have helped include Window World in Boardman, Casal’s d Spa & Salon in Canfield, Dunkin’ Donuts and the Cornersburg Party Shop.
Bayless, 23, a combat engineer with the 87th Engineer Co., was deployed to Afghanistan on May 9 and is expected to be there at least a year. The 2009 graduate of Chaney High School studied criminal justice at Youngstown State University before enlisting for a four-year hitch in the Army in March 2012.
Bayless is the son of Sandra Emmons and stepson of Terry Emmons of Youngstown and the son of Martin Bayless and stepson of Carol Bayless in South Carolina.
He has a twin brother, Joseph E. Bayless; a sister, Jacqueline N. Bayless; and is the grandson of Katherine and Joseph Cioffi of Niles and Sara Bayless of Mineral Ridge and the late Jerry Bayless.
“We are a big military family. I look up to our soldiers in every way. They give up their lives ... they are away from home and family. They are fighting for our nation. They gave us our freedom. We shouldn’t take that for granted. We are still at war in Afghanistan. Our troops deserve more than what they get,” Emmons said.
“I’m always positive when I’m on the phone with my son. But I’m very, very worried. That’s why I have to keep my mind active,” Emmons said.
She thanked community residents and businesses who have helped and said she hopes more will join her Support Our Soldiers campaign.
“I’m very proud of Michael. I think of him when I wake up and when I go to sleep and when I’m working. We have a very strong bond,” she said.
“I’m proud of all the troops,” Emmons said.