Lantana resident Janylle Koren is used to sending her son, Taylor, gifts and loving reminders from home while he is away serving his country in the Navy — especially during the holidays. But when Janylle decided this year to send a gift bag to every sailor on the ship, she knew it would take a small miracle to make it happen.
Little did Janylle know she was surrounded by plenty of miracle workers.
With help from hundreds of local elementary and middle school students, friends, family, parishioners from her church, neighbors, and even total strangers, Janylle shipped between 3,100 and 3,200 gift bags to sailors aboard the USS Ronald Reagan Aircraft Carrier on Nov. 18. That was the deadline to ensure each sailor received a bag by Christmas.
Each decorated bag was filled with a variety of candy and snacks, as well as handwritten notes of love and support.
“When they told me I had to have them done and shipped by the 18th, I knew I really only had two weeks to get it all done,” Janylle said. “We couldn’t have done this by ourselves. This was truly a community thing.”
She added, “It was overwhelming in the most awesome way possible. What happened was an absolute blessing.”
Just before Christmas, Janylle confirmed that she had already heard from the Navy Chaplain that the majority of the bags had reached the carrier and were lined up in the mess hall. And more were on the way.
“He said that as the sailors sat down, a hush came over the room as they all started reading the notes and looking at their bags,” Janylle said. “He said the hush was followed by such a wonderful sense of energy.”
When Janylle initially concocted her idea, the first thing she did was pen a Facebook post to Lantana residents just to gauge interest and see if anyone had any leftover Halloween candy they’d be willing to donate. Before she knew it, everyone wanted to help in some way. Some volunteers chipped in candy and snacks, and others went so far as to show up at the Koren house to help pack each bag.
From there, several schools were calling to find out how they could help. Students from the elementary schools decorated every bag, and students from Harpool Middle School took the time to provide handwritten notes.
“I only did a little bit last year for my son, but this year, the doors opened,” Janylle said.
Janylle said the goal is to make this a yearly thing and possibly grow it from year to year with continued support.
“It’s definitely something I’d like to see happen every year,” Janylle said.
photos courtesy of Janylle Koren