Aloha! Donated Hawaiian shirts boost soldiers' morale

Staff reports

A different kind of collecting is going on at consign & collect co. in Greencastle.

The store at 136 E. Baltimore St. is now a collection site for Hawaiian Shirts for Deployed Soldiers. Local residents can drop off new or gently worn shirts to be sent to the Hawaiian Shirt Project in South Carolina, where they will be put together for Hawaiian Shirt Parties for troops.

Local residents can help throw Hawaiian Shirt Parties for deployed troops by donating shirts at consign & collect co. in Greencastle.

Thank you notes and notes of encouragement to tuck into shirt pockets also can be included, said Melissa Hohl, who owns consign & collect co. with Chris Johnston.

Gwen Pollard, creator of the project, began her mission in 2017 for her own son’s troop.

He was deployed from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, with the 101st Airborne Division when she sent him a Hawaiian shirt to lift his spirits. When he went out on base in his shirt, his friends loved it. Some wished that they had one, so he asked her to send a few for his friends.

"They were in a dangerous place, on a combat mission. Stress levels were high, but a silly Hawaiian shirt broke through the tension, and made them laugh. It was a light in the darkness," Pollard says on the Hawaiian Shirt Project website.

Pollard knew that there were approximately 300 soldiers near her son, so she began a project to collect a Hawaiian shirt for each of them.

"Each shirt has a thank you note tucked into the front pocket to let our heroes know how much we appreciate them," according to Pollard. 

To date, over 26,000 shirts and thank you notes have been sent, but more are needed. Currently the requests from troops for Hawaiian Shirt Parties greatly exceed her supply. 

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"When I thought about going into business, even before Chris and I decided to partner together at c&c, my number one goal as a business owner was going to be finding ways that will make a difference here in the local community and the community at large," Hohl said, quoting Martin Lutheran King Jr. as saying, "Life’s most persistent and urgent question is 'What are you doing for others?'"

Hohl continued, "I’m an optimist. I believe that working together, this community can do great things. I’m hopeful that this is just the beginning."

Hohl's husband is a veteran and she said, "I have a deep appreciation for the men and women who wear or have worn the uniform in service to our country. You know, I look at those banners of veterans lining Greencastle’s streets, and I am just so grateful every single day. If my sending a simple Hawaiian shirt and a note of encouragement will brighten even one service member’s day, and let him or her know he or she is appreciated, I’m all in!"