By Sean Barron
Carol Landis gets a bit emotional when she recalls having spotted the license plate of the vehicle in front of her at a Columbiana gas station.
The emblem immediately told her that someone special to her likely was behind the wheel.
“I happened to have a blanket in my car,” she explained. “I asked him if he was a veteran and he said, ‘Yes,’ and I handed him a blanket and said, ‘Thank you for serving.’”
Timing and circumstance allowed the veteran to take home a free fleece blanket, courtesy of Operation Wrapped in Love, a 3-year-old program in which veterans of all military branches receive blankets with complimentary thank-you cards as a means of thanking them for their service and sacrifices.
Landis, who works at a local bank, spoke recently from her Macklin Road residence about the effort. She noted that for each blanket sold, one is donated to a veteran or to Akron Children’s Hospital.
An estimated 150 blankets have been given away to both, she said, adding that those who served in Vietnam are especially grateful because many were treated as pariahs and shunned after returning home.
Also assisting in the program are Landis’ daughter, Andrea, who conceived of the idea and who buys much of the material, as well as daughter-in-law Sarah, a graphic-design artist who lives in Murrysville, Pa. Also lending a hand is Landis’ mother, Irene Yoho.
Many of the colorful blankets are decorated in patriotic, red-white-and-blue themes. Others display cheerful and bright designs.
A major influence on getting Operation Wrapped in Love off the ground was Mary Jane Landis, Carol’s mother-in-law, who spent many years volunteering on behalf of those who served their country.
About 20 years ago, Mary Jane, of Columbiana, began volunteering at Point Man Ministries in Leetonia, which provided clothing, blankets and food to veterans, many of whom were down on their luck.
“One [veteran] came in filthy and I gave him a blanket because he said he needed one for his bed,” she recalled.
Afterward, Mary Jane learned that the man had gotten a job and was much happier, thanks to her and Point Man Ministries, a Christian-based international organization.
On another occasion, Mary Jane said, she made a blanket for another veteran who wanted one. Later, she started designing flannel blankets for babies, she added.
Carol Landis said that she and others in the program also enjoy spending many Saturday evenings listening to live music at Groggy Monday, a New Middletown coffee shop, largely because the occasions end with an 89-year-old World War II veteran giving his rendition of “God Bless America.”
Carol also appreciated another veteran who is close to Carol’s heart: her husband, George, who runs a printer-cartridge company and had served 31 months in the Army.
For more information about the effort, email firstname.lastname@example.org.