234: A Soldier's Hands with Trish Shallenberger - Betsy Pake

234: A Soldier’s Hands with Trish Shallenberger

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Today on the show I share my friend Trish Shallenberger. Trish is amazing and I think you are going to love her story of caring and action!

Trish Shallenberger, Founder of A Soldier’s Hands, has integrated youth education, volunteer support, fundraising, and leadership into an organization that cares for our deployed military in a uniquely touching way

For 13 years, all sprouting out of one conversation with a sunburned soldier on an overbooked flight from Dallas to Philadelphia – a flight she shouldn’t even have been on, and a seat next to her that shouldn’t even have been empty. – she has brought tears of joy and a new sense of belonging to over 10 thousand deployed military personnel around the planet. This is accomplished by individually wrapped gifts, packaged by grade school age children through retirees.

Trish has brought thousands of smiles and education about commitment, follow-through, and giving back, all the while ensuring that every member of every deployed unit she touches receives a personal, handwritten note, along with skin care, and goodles, all packaged with love from the home front.

The recognition and gratitude pour in continuously from all ranks and branches of the armed services. The 131st Cavalry/Team Vandal recognized her efforts with their Minuteman Statue award; she has been a guest speaker for Prospera Financial Services, Church & Dwight, as well numerous local and veterans clubs; and most importantly with many school assemblies and organizations such as the Girl Scouts. Trish’s efforts have been highlighted in local papers, on NBC10 and 6ABC in Philadelphia, and in multiple magazine publications. In addition, her work and charity will be featured in the Old Dominion University Alumni magazine this Fall.

Transcription:

Welcome to The Art of Living big. I’m your host, Betsy Pake. I’m an author, speaker, Master hypnotherapist and NLP coach, and I help high achievers rewire for success. If you’re ready for the next level, you’re in the right place. Over the next 30 minutes, I hope to help you redefine what could be possible for your life. Now, let’s go live big. Hey, everyone, welcome to today’s show. I have an interview today, a special guest, a woman that I met through a coaching program that I’m in if you’ve ever been in a coaching program, where you know there’s a community piece to it, you find that you get to know people and just get it is such a great container for finding like like minded people and people that really want to expand and do new things. When I started talking with Trish, and you hear me in it today, in the interview, I mentioned that I’m curious about her identity, like how she actually thinks and the reason is because what we’re talking about is an experience that she had that led her to start a nonprofit. And you know, when we start this conversation,

she talks about the experience on an airplane. And there is a deep integrity piece that I almost pointed out and then I didn’t. But I want to point it out now because I think it’s important that she had a like a god wink. I think she even might call it that in the interview. But she had this God wink rate this, this moment where her intuition told her to do something. And she said she was going to do it. And then she did it, which are two very different things. And I bring that up only because I love like listening to how people tick and what makes them tick, right? Like the words that they use, and the things that they do is fascinating to me. And also I wanted to point that out, because later she texted with me and she was saying that, and you’ll hear the interview where she talks about how she met this soldier on an airplane. And she said years later, he let her know that he was telling his buddies that he met this woman and she said she was going to do this thing. And they said no, she won’t, right. Like they just kind of laughed at him that he would be so naive, but she stuck with her word. And that’s because of her identity because of who she is. And I think you’ll hear that in the interview today. So I just love what makes people tick, I love to really get to see and get to know the essence of people. And I think Trish does a really good job. And of sharing that in the show today. So anyway, I hope that you guys give her a ton of love, reach out to her, find her on her page, share what you learned today in the show, because I think that as a community and you’ll hear it I’m kind of getting ahead. But as a community, I think that we could have an impact here. And I think that could be really, really fun. So thank you so much for being part of the art of living big community. Thank you for listening and sharing with your friends. And now I want to introduce you to my friend Trish.

Hello, everyone. Hey, I am so excited because I have a fun guest again today. So I want to introduce you to my friend Trish Trish shallow on Berger. Hey, Trish, how are you? Good morning. Great. Thank you. So Trish does cool things. And you know, I love people that do cool things. So I wanted to have her on because she’s created something really cool. And you know, I think and I know I’ve talked about this on the show a number of times, but I believe that we are creators, right? We are here to create and to build something new. And she has taken that and pointed it in like the best possible place. So I want to introduce you to Trish and just kind of have you hear her story. And I think there is something in here as you’re listening, you’re going to be inspired and you’re going to want to do stuff. And so at the end, I’m going to tell you what to do. But also I want you to hear sort of how she has done this because there’s something in your heart that you want to do too. And I want you to just listen to hear about her identity. Right about how she sees the world. What are her values and beliefs and how did she funnel that into creating change? Okay, so hey, Trish, all of that to say hello, hello.

Wow, good morning. Thank you. I no pressure, no pressure or anything. We’re just going to really be listening for your identity today.

Now you didn’t prep me for that. Yeah, right.

Oh, tell us Yeah, tell us a little bit about you and what you do. Okay, so, first and foremost, I’m a mom of four kids. And if you have children, you know that is

That’s a lot. And you’re never not apparent, regardless of how old they are. So that’s the first thing.

The other thing is I’ve actually founded a charity. But it wasn’t something that I ever had the intention of doing. I say, it really founded me.

And that’s how the story begins. So I’ll just start. Yeah, I was. And I want to say, I’m going to interrupt you to just to just solidify what you said that you’re never done with the mothering. You know, we were talking and chatting right before the show. And my daughter is, I mean, I say she’s grown. She’s not quite 19. So she’ll never really be grown. But she doesn’t live with me. And we went out to lunch, and she just started eating off my plate like food. And I was like it there’s no boundary, like, nothing is mine. Nothing is hers. You know, and I was like, do you do this with friends? No, no, just with you. So Young, you’re never done with your kids. Right? No, and you think just because they’ve moved out? No, I just think it gets a little bit more complicated. And the stakes get a little bit higher. As naked owner.

Yeah, yeah. It’s more. I think it’s more. Yeah. And I think it gets more fun. I think the fun grows to I’m working on that. Yeah.

Yeah, yeah. So so so I will be quiet. I’ll be quiet now. So tell us a little bit about how you got started. What How did this even come to be? Okay, so first, I’ll say I don’t come from a military family. So this is all new to me.

I was on a business trip in 2007. It was August 1 2007. And I remember that day because it

it has impacted my daily call to action since then. So I was in Texas, and the there were storms going through the area. So they had shut down the flight. All the flights to everything was getting delayed. Push back, push back, push back.

I had changed my seat in the airplane. Earlier in that week, because I was trying to get closer to Yeah, you know, get out of airplane and get home. Yeah.

Get much higher. Yeah. And because there were so many people going standby, they actually asked if I’d be willing to go stay another day and give up my seat. And although that was appealing,

because we just mentioned I have four kids. They were 147 and nine at the time.

I said no, because I knew if I didn’t come home, I might as well not come home. Right? Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And finally, so finally, after about three and a half hours, we boarded this flight. And there was one empty seat on this overbooked flight.

And guess where it was next to next to me? So I was in the window. The middle seat was empty. And next to me, was this young man that reminded me of OPI, you know, I’m talking about Yeah, I do. Yeah. Yeah. Little Ron Howard. And because that middle seat was empty, we put our stuff in the middle. And I started talking to him. And I mainly noticed that his hands were a mess. So the tops of them were sunburn. And the palms had these huge welts on them. And it just looked, it looks so painful. And so I got a man cream. And he was so appreciative for this little tube of pan cream. Yeah. And we talked and he shared with me that he was attending Auburn University on an ROTC scholarship. His number had been called. They were at Fort Hood, Texas training. And he was in route to a rack. Okay, yeah. 18 years old.

And he shared with me he was really, he was just such an honest kid. And he shared You know, he said, I’m as prepared as I can be. For what I’m going in. I’m third generation military.

He said, I’m a Christian. He said, I’m not afraid of dying. I know how that story will end. He said, But what I’m really afraid of is something sunburn. He was very fair, like okay, yeah, yeah. Yeah. And he said, I can’t handle Texas. How am I going to handle a wreck? Right. Yeah. So I said, Mark, I’ll send stuff I’ll take care of you. You know that motherly? Right. Yeah, man. Totally. Yes. And I said, I’ll take care of you. And he said, he said, I really appreciate that. He said, but I’m uncomfortable with that. He said, I’m uncomfortable getting something knowing that not everyone and

unit will receive something.

Not everyone’s going to receive a mail call, because he had experienced, you know, he his family had experienced that. Yeah. So I said, I’ll send some to your whole unit, how many is in your unit? And he said, 177, you were like, I am purchasing some hand cream in bulk, some sunscreen, you needed a sponsor.

And I thought, Oh, my gosh, I said, Mark, you know, I don’t know how this is gonna happen. But you can count on me. Yeah. So I came home. And I shared this story that met this young man on an airplane. And I promised him and

you know, you got to help me keep my promise. And so we did. And Thanksgiving Day of 2007. he emailed me, and he said, Today is the best day that we’ve had in Iraq. He said, I got to be Santa Claus. And yes, and every single person. Yeah. And he said, You have to know that there are grown men here crying. Because they’ve never received anything. Mm. Yeah. And that really impacted you. Yeah. Completely. I

I’m a little naive, because I think everyone has someone in their corner. Right. And everyone has someone in their corner. Yeah, yeah. So then we did it. So then I thought, Oh, my goodness, we have to do it again. And so we set more to that unit. And the commander of that unit

was so touched that when. So what happens is when a unit comes back from being deployed, they come back to wherever they left from, and they left from Fort Dix, New Jersey. And they invited us to come our family to come to their Welcome back. Oh, yeah. So by this point, had you sent like, multiple packages? Like 77? Twice? Okay. Okay. Yes. Yep. And so when we came back with only civilians at this dinner, Mark is so young, he can’t even go to the bar and have drink. Yeah.

Yeah. And people waited in line to say thank you to us. For just meeting them. Just you’re like, yeah, and you were like, I just sent two packages, like in your mind, you’re like, this is like, what ever like everybody should be getting something. Right. Right. And they were, they were just thanking me, because I think people get good stuff. It’s not that people don’t get stuff, but not everyone gets something. Right. Yeah. Well, and it’s,

I mean, I’ll say it like this. I think most people listening will know what I mean. But that’s part of like our privilege. Like, we don’t even realize that other people might not have everything that we have, like we’re just used to it. So it’s not even in our awareness or doesn’t even occur to us, right. Someone else might not be getting a package or might not have people that love them at home or whatever. Exactly. Yeah, exactly. And so when that unit, so then they came back to Fort Dix. Then they went, then they went back home to Alabama, it flew back to Alabama and the commander, Commander Van Horn, invited me to come back to their ceremony and had me part of the ceremony and presented me with a Citizenship Award, which is, it’s the highest award that a civilian can get.

And I only mentioned that is because what that did, to me is sealed the deal that what we were doing really mattered.

Right. It mattered enough for his commander for the commander to acknowledge it in that kind of way. And at that point, you hadn’t even set up the

set up the nonprofit, right? Yes.

Yeah. Not at all. We were years from that. It’s almost shocking that like, like, what you did absolutely was like outside of what most people do, like, absolutely. But it wasn’t you hadn’t even gotten to the point where you had put in all the effort, but you were being like, it was so important, and such a seemingly small thing, right? Because to you, you were like, Well, everybody needs something. I’ll send something for everybody. I mean, you agreed to that, like, just on the airplane. Right? So it wasn’t that big of a decision yet. It was so important.

Exactly, exactly. And how it kept going. I felt like that was the domino that had dropped. Then one of the members from that Alabama unit re enlisted. And he reached out to me and he said, Do you think you can take care of our unit? And then do you think you can take care of my buddy’s units, and then that’s how it just kept going and going and going. Yeah, but we still weren’t a nonprofit and that didn’t happen until

2013 actually, so how many years later was that? That was?

That was seven years later. So we were doing during?

Yeah. So were you just like getting donations from friends and stuff like that? Is that how you were fulfilling the need? We were getting, you’re getting financial donations, and then I would be purchasing them in bulk.

And so what kind of tipped the scale, so to speak, is in 2013, another gentleman from Fort Hood reached out and said, You know, I hear you send care packages, do you think you could support our unit? And so I ticket wise, Betsy, and I said, Well, how many’s in your unit? And he said, with his real sick Southern accent, he said, Oh, honey, you better sit down.

Which frightens me a little bit. I said, Okay, I’m sitting. And he said, 800, it’s a, it’s a full battalion. Oh, wow. Yeah. And so what I knew at that point was that was a $20,000. Commit commitment. Could I could we raise $20,000 to support this? And what I also knew that is if we weren’t going to send one if we couldn’t send 800, right? So yeah, sure. I said to him, I said, buddy, I, I need to think about this, I need to pray on this. I’m not going to commit to this right now. But I will get back to you. And so I went back to the people that had supported us over those last seven years. And I said, this is a big one, you know, what do you guys think? And they said, Oh, we’ve got this, you know, with God, all things are possible. Don’t worry how you’re going to do it. Let’s just get going. Let’s just get going. And we’ll and we’ll do it. And so I thought, you know, I really thought that would be the end of the story, because I couldn’t think bigger than that. And something shifted. And yes, that is a lot. It’s a drop in the bucket to the number of men and women that are deployed on our behalf. Yeah. And so it was at that point that we became that we filed all the paperwork and became a 501. c three. So let me, let me pause you for just a second. And I want to ask you, like when you had that moment where you were like something has shifted right. Something had to shift for you to be able to think bigger. Was it just that you had the challenge in front of you? Or was it something internally that shifted?

I think it was a I think it was internally. I think that, you know, at this point, we were supported by so many volunteers that were helping and willing to,

to step to the plate and make sure that we made this commitment. Right. And so, but I, but in terms of shifting to becoming an official thing, it was just

the thought of someone not getting a care package. Thought so and not being recognized. Yeah, was more painful than doing the work and making sure that we could have that covered. Right? Yes, yeah. Yeah. So it’s almost like that was the calling, right? That, like caused you to step up and be like, okay, let’s figure this out. I’m gonna

I’m going to shift so that I can handle all of this. Correct? Correct. Yeah. And I think that’s how leaders are born, right. I mean, that’s how leaders are born is they have a challenge. There’s a calling, there’s something deeper within them, and then they rise to that challenge. So then you created this nonprofit. It’s called a soldier’s hand. Yes. And so it’s kind of funny how we came up with the name when we were doing the 800. But we had not decided to actually become a nonprofit. My friend, Pam said, you know, we should probably call this this is kind of a big thing. We should probably call this something. And I said, Okay, you’re we’re sitting at the kitchen table crossing each other. And she said, what this is the all the thought that went into the name. Right? Yeah. And he’s, she said, What about a soldier’s hands? It all started with Mark’s hands. I said, great. That’s good. Yes, yes. And yeah, I love that. How can Yes, me too. Me too.

And so when you say Okay, so now we’re nonprofit, then.

You know, the dominoes really started dropping. And the interesting thing is that we’ve never really seeked seat. It’s not the right word. We’ve never really sought after units to be able to serve

They have really found us. And so it’s one Domino leading to the next leading to the next. And so we just try to be faithful and follow that lead. Yeah, yep. Yeah. And so how many how many soldiers? Do you? I don’t know, service right now? Like, how many? Is it a regular bunch? Or do you do it for one unit and then move to another unit? Or how does it work? Exactly. That’s what we do. We work unit by unit.

So we’re working on the USS Russell. It’s a ship

as maybe 200. troops on it. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. And then once you get something into their hands, then you move on to another unit. Correct. Okay, cool.

So tell me, what’s the vision? What’s the big Is there a bigger vision or a next level for you?

Well, you know, we know that they’re about 175,000. deployed. And so we, you know, we are doing something but it’s just, it’s just a drop in the bucket. I mean, it would be awesome. If no one ever went with a song without that Mail Call. That’s why they talk about is is the importance of when there’s a mail call. And your name is not called. It’s kind of devastating. How often this is a this is a me not knowing anything question. But how often do they have a mail call? Like, is it once a week? It’s not every day? I wouldn’t suspect right. You know, I don’t know the answer to that. I suspect that it really has to do with where they are, what they’re faced, you know, sometimes the packages get there pretty quickly. And sometimes if they’re in the thick of it, so to speak, you know, it can take 234 weeks for them to get so I think it really just depends on where they are in the world. And what is happening there as well. Yes, it really answers the question. That makes sense. Okay. No, yeah, no, it did. I mean, it’s that it depends, right. So.

So, so right now, how many? How many people do you think you service like in any given year?

You know, right now, we’re probably at

1000 per year.

You know, it, that also varies, too. So we just finished up in 2019. We service the USS Reagan. I don’t know if you know anything about that. But that is that ship is the size of three football fields. Oh, wow. If you can imagine that. And there are 3200 troops there. Okay. Yeah. So that was that took a year and a half to actually complete because it was it was so massive. So that was our only focus at that time. And we they knew was coming. And

it was quite a feat to actually get it there there in the middle of the ocean. So we had to actually put it on these flats. And then a truck came to our house to get it and they took it somewhere and then it they took us they put it on a smaller boat. And then they took that boat out to wherever the Reagan was mine.

It was amazing. And then they had to forklift, like pull it out and drop it on the other. Yeah. So you’re like wrapping all that stuff up in your house? Like taking to pick that up? Okay, so, so it started out with sunscreen. What do you send now? So we always send out like a hand bomb. We send an SPF a sunscreen, we send a lip balm with SPF. Yeah, we send hard candy because yeah, everyone likes candy. Right? Yeah. And then a letter. So we employ it. We get people from nursing homes down to kindergarteners, or kids that don’t even can’t even write. Yeah, and we include a card in that. So they’re getting a handwritten note from someone. Yeah. And then the other piece that we do is we take flags that need to be retired, so if they’re faded, or if they’re torn in any way, they really shouldn’t be flown. So we get those flags and we cut out the stars. And then we put the stars in a little bag with a note and then the note says I am part of our American flag have flown over home in the USA but I can no longer fly. The sun and wind have caused me to come tattered and torn

Please carry me as a reminder that you’re not forgotten. Hmm. And so if you’ve served in the military, or you have family that have served, you’re entitled to this other than that you’re not. Yeah. And so they will put it, we get notes back that they’ll put it on their helmet. They’ll just it’s small enough that they’ll put it in their pocket. It’s something tactile. Yeah. Hold on to. Yeah. And it’s just Well, yeah, they’re just not forgotten. You know, the, the rate of suicide among veterans is, it’s, it’s a that’s a pandemic to. Right, right. So if we can touch them, and let them know that they’re just not forgotten? Who knows the impact of that, right? Yeah. And it’s bigger than handcream. Right? I mean, it’s bigger than it’s even bigger than them getting a letter like it is deeper and more impactful than just that. It really is. And then the other piece, Betsy, that’s come out of this is the engagement of others. So it’s not everyone wants to start something, I didn’t really want to start something. But I follow that calling. I believe that everyone wants to participate and be able to do something for someone else. Mm hmm. And so this has created an opportunity where, you know, I have kids that need service hours for National Honor Society, right. So then we’ll do something or kids that, you know, they they’re just learning their names, or they’ll cut they’ll

they’ll trace their hand and then make American flag out of hand. Yeah, yeah. There’s a place for everyone to be able to participate and make a difference. And quite frankly, it couldn’t be done without a lot of people. But you know, supporting me, right? Yeah, absolutely. I love that. But there’s really like a place for anything. And but these kids, I say kids, because most of them are young adults, right? Like, am I right? And that for seniors? So we have a group here that it is a group made up just to seniors that do service work, because their lives aren’t over yet. Yeah, yeah. They were like a place for everybody to be able to participate and pull this thing together to make it happen. Exactly. And so we, we haven’t been able to do this because of COVID. But we have wrapping parties, and it’s really fun. Yeah, I bet it is. And I bet it’s fun to just see everything come in. It is it is the other we work with a group of high functioning, like autistic kids. Yeah, they love it. So they each get one chore. That’s their chore. And they pass it along to the next one and the pass along to the next one. It is a blast. And they feel so good about what they’re doing. And you know, it all counts. It all goes towards serving the diploid, right? Yeah. So it’s like there’s purpose throughout, like really woven into this entire organization from from start to finish.

Yes, it happened, because that seat was empty. Yes. And it happened to because Mark said, I can’t accept something knowing not everyone would, would receive something. So if he had said, Thank you,

that would have been the end of the story, right? Yes, it was sort of divine intervention. What was the airline? Do you remember the airline?

Um,

I feel like that airline needs to know what they helped create. They need to sponsor you. Oh, my gosh, to make that happen. You know what I’m thinking it’s USA or that’s what I would usually.

Yeah, on when I flew from Philly. That’s great idea. Right. I mean, I just feel like that. I mean, it’s so funny, because there’s so many things that played a part, right? There’s so many different things that played a part and if it hadn’t gone on the way that it had. But that definitely feels like the kind of thing that they at least need to be tweeted about.

They know their participation in this right. That’s it. I traveled to Dallas a lot. And I have never seen that rain there. Except for that time. That time. Yeah. I love it. So tell us how people can get involved and how can we help you in this and be a part of this? Oh, awesome. Thank you for asking that. So you know, Share, share this story. Share this story on your on your social media platform, share the story to friends who read it to them to us air.

I love that. Thank you for thinking outside the box.

For me, I appreciate it.

My gift, share it with your church. Um, you know, I really believe that it was what I don’t have ever heard this term a god wink, when all these things happen. And they don’t make sense, but they make sense through the lens of what God can create. And so

you know, share it with your share it with your church, share it with your schools, your girls gap clubs, you guys have a website isn’t our website people can go to we do it’s a soldier’s hands.org it will have different ways that you can get involved. You can write letters, you know, get your group to write letters, make a contribution it, we’re 100% volunteer run organization. And so every penny that’s raised everybody that listens, even,

even if everybody that listens, gives a buck, like just $1, it could be really fun week we could sponsor like a huge troop who knows, right? a buck five bucks, like even if you go do that, or write a letter, like whatever it is you can do. I feel like, as a community, all the people that listen to this show, we could have an impact in a greater way. You know, several years ago, I did an episode about beauty. It was about this little girl named beauty in Uganda that had club feet, and I wanted to see if we could come together and sponsor her surgery. And we did we sponsored her surgery and all of her follow up. And then since that time, we’ve sponsored, I think nine other kids to have the surgery and all the follow up, which if you’re in Uganda, and you have club feet, you become a beggar on the street. So that surgery changes your life, right? So I see that same sort of like vision with this, like an opportunity to really impact an individual in a profound way. So even if it’s a book or even if it’s writing the letter, right, just being able to participate in this could be something really cool.

Absolutely. And you know, I just want to stress that.

You know, every penny does count. And every penny is used to serve the deployed. Yeah. Yeah. Awesome. This is really so cool. I’ll make sure that all the links and everything are in the show notes. But thank you so much. Thank you so much for coming on and sharing your story and letting us participate. And just hearing about like one person making a big huge impact on so so many and that I’m sure trickles down and trickles out to millions of people, people that you probably aren’t even aware of yet trash it’s a really cool, you’ve done a really cool thing. Thanks for sharing it with us. Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity. It’s this is another Domino that will be set into motion and and see where that goes. Yeah.

Art of Living big Domino. I like it. I like being thought of community as a domino. This is awesome. Thank you so much. You’re welcome. Thank you.

Thank you so much for being here and for listening to today’s episode. If you liked it and got something out of it, please be sure to share with me by leaving a review over on iTunes. And if you’re not following on social media, I am everywhere at Betsy Pake but most of the time over on Instagram, so follow and comment on my latest post so that we can connect there. I will see you next week. And until then, keep living big

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