'Little idea' turns to big operation
|Photo gallery: 'Operation Headrest'|
|Video: Army wives seek pillowcases for troops|
By Diane S.W. Lee
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Diane S.W. Lee
Instead of dining and going out, Mililani resident Kimm Geise, whose husband was deployed to Iraq last August, spends her time making pillowcases to pass time.
Geise, 38, calls it "midnight therapy."
Since starting the activity, "the past month has gone by the quickest in the deployment, and it really gives me something to focus on besides my husband not being home," Geise said.
Geise and her friend, Michele Pritchard, whose husband is serving his second deployment, have started "Operation Headrest," a project that collects patriotic handmade and decorated pillowcases for single soldiers to use after returning from Iraq.
Schofield Barracks resident Pritchard, 40, said she wanted to give back to the soldiers who come home without a family to welcome them.
"You see so many of them that don't have that kind of person to give them a hug, so it's nice to be able to do this for them," Pritchard said.
Geise and Pritchard came up with the idea after coming across patriotic fabric at a store. They joked about putting a pillow on every soldier's bed in their husbands' unit, the 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery at Schofield Barracks.
It would have been impossible for the two of them to sew pillowcases for all 150 single soldiers, Geise said.
But she sent an e-mail asking for her family's help on July 9, "and it just spiraled from there."
They launched a Web site for the project on July 18 and have received more than 1,450 hits. The site averages 30 to 40 hits a day, with new visitors from Sweden, Germany and India, said Pritchard, who was surprised at the interest.
Island families and people from Canada, Kansas, Virginia and Florida poured in packages of pillowcases. As of Wednesday, they had collected 62 pillowcases since starting the project. By Thursday, they had 91, and they got four more on Friday.
People from 42 other states have pledged to send, Geise said.
"Every time I get a package, or a phone call or an e-mail that says 'we're going to send a pillowcase,' and I start to cry; the people want to say thank you and they don't know how," Geise said. "And every time I open a pillowcase, and I see that someone cares for our soldiers, that's what keeps me going."
The two spend four to five hours every day, checking the Web site, e-mail, making pillowcases and attaching thank-you notes to each of them.
The goal was to collect 150 pillowcases for their husbands' unit.
"We thought at first, we would basically do it for the people within our own battalion," Pritchard said. "But with the response — why can't we do it for all of them — they're all our heroes."
Geise said the pillowcases were so well received that they decided on a new goal: to reach all the 1,736 single soldiers confirmed in 3rd Brigade, including their husbands' unit. Requests were made from other units in the brigade, so Geise said she decided to accommodate them too.
"I wouldn't have changed it if I didn't think it was achievable," Geise said. "We get at least 10 e-mails a day saying 'we'll send pillowcases,' and through different opportunities, people are stepping up and saying, 'we want to help.' "
Geise, who expects her husband back by October, said she hopes to reach the goal by the end of September. The initial deadline of Aug. 15 has been changed and as long as people keep sending pillowcases, Geise said she'll keep on collecting.
But Geise said she is not accepting monetary donations and requests that people purchase pillowcases with patriotic themes or decorate them themselves.
"It's just a little idea, and a simple and inexpensive way to say thank you to the soldiers," Geise said.
Although many of the soldiers are strangers, the pillowcases will mean a lot to them, reminding them of a job well done, she said.
The two plan to decorate their husbands' unit's barracks before the return.
"So many of our soldiers are coming back and they don't have anybody to welcome them," Pritchard said. "And so it's great to know that they'll all come back and see this pillowcase and they'll say 'wow, people really do care.' "