A group of Bluffton residents has sent some old golf supplies to U.S. troops stuck in a unique kind of hazard -- Afghanistan.
The military personnel are stationed in Herat Province where some of them are working to build schools and improve roads. In their limited spare time, Marine Staff Sgt. Jody Danks and some of her comrades have been practicing their golf swings. They have a few clubs, but their golf balls have gone missing. The local children enjoy running after the balls but take them home rather than return them, Danks said.
Danks called on her friends from South Carolina for help. In October she tracked down retired U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Philip Anselmo. She met Anselmo a couple of years ago when she led him and a group of Berkeley Hall residents on a tour of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. The group liked Danks so much they invited her to Bluffton for dinner one evening, but they eventually lost touch.
Anselmo said he and his neighbors were thrilled when she e-mailed them, asking for used golf balls. Anselmo forwarded the message to all Berkeley Hall residents.
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"The military is very near and dear to our hearts," said Anselmo's wife, Diane. "I think Phil, above anyone, knows the sacrifice. He did many tours in Vietnam in the '60s and '70s. The military has always been a part of our life."
She said she put a basket on her front porch for golf balls, and within a few days it was overflowing. There was golf equipment all over the porch. She said the donations kept coming in, and she eventually had to send an e-mail asking people to stop donating for a while because they had more than they could handle.
"The Berkeley Hall community is so generous," Diane said. "We only have to ask for something, and they are so receptive."
With the financial support of their neighbors, the couple shipped 12 boxes of golf equipment -- balls, tees, clubs and golf bags -- to Danks and her pals in mid-October.
Danks sent Philip an e-mail with the subject line "Holy Golf Balls." She and her friends were completely overwhelmed with all the golf supplies they received. "You all are amazing," Danks wrote in an e-mail to the Anselmos and their friends at Berkeley Hall. "Have you ever seen a grown man cry? It was like Christmas here tonight for all of us."
The Berkeley Hall group used that e-mail's subject line as inspiration for the name of their new project -- the Berkeley Hall Brigade Holy Golf Balls Mission.
HITTING THE BOOKS
Diane e-mailed Danks, asking what else she and her unit could use.
Danks is part of a female engagement team working with the women and children of a remote village. She told Diane they needed pens, pencils, notebooks and chalk for the schools there. Diane got busy gathering supplies.
A couple of weeks later Danks sent an e-mail to Diane, saying she had just gotten approval to create a home school for about 30 children and to refurbish a local compound into a girls school. She said the girls, between the ages of 7 and 19, are eager for an education, something they have never been allowed. The new school will give many more the opportunity to receive an education.
Diane sent another e-mail to her neighbors, this time requesting school supplies rather than golf equipment. She said her garage was soon packed with educational materials.
Red Cedar Elementary School principal Dr. Kathy Corley is a Berkeley Hall resident and several other members of the community volunteer at the school. Diane thought it seemed fitting for the local elementary students to get involved. She asked Corley if the school had any excess school supplies to donate. One of the teachers at the school, Barbara Hodgins, donated supplies from her store, School Days, which closed in December. The students donated used books and created teaching tools to give the new girls school.
"The (Bluffton) students had an education in the process of preparing materials because they had to come to grips with what the kids over there know and don't know," Corley said. "They learned about how different the school is over there. ... There were quite a few rich discussions during the preparation of the materials."
The Anselmos sent boxes of school supplies, golf equipment and other treats to Danks in November and more in December. Diane said she still has more supplies to mail to Danks. She's also accepting more donations from anyone who wants to get involved.
"It just seems like such a little thing to do for these guys who do so much for us," Diane said. "It's not the people with credentials that make a difference. It's just the people who have concern for people, and this community really does care about giving back."