For Janesville woman, holiday giving is tops
JANESVILLE Sherry Tyler has often heard her friend, Pam Bell, talk proudly about her son, who is serving in Afghanistan.
“Several months ago, we had an in-depth conversation about what he does over there,” Tyler said. “It got me to thinking about the men and women in service, who sacrifice so much for me to live this wonderful life that I have.”
Tyler, who must have inherited some of Santa’s genes, asked Bell what she could ship overseas to brighten her son’s Christmas—and the Christmases of all 95 people in his Army unit.
The men and women needed simple things, such as sturdy sandals, snacks, body wash and lip balm. Tyler went to work gathering the items from Janesville stores and the Frito-Lay Co., where another friend works.
“She got chips, cookies and snacks at a discount,” Tyler said.
More friends added beef jerky and candy.
Mostly, the cost of all those sandals, snacks and personal-care items came out of Tyler’s pocket. In all, she mailed 16 packages.
Tyler of Janesville won’t say how much she spent.
“It can get pretty substantial,” she said. “But it’s not about the money. It’s about helping someone else.”
To the service members in Afghanistan, she has a heartfelt message:
“People back home in the United States are thinking of you, and we thank you for your sacrifice.”
This is not the first time that Tyler has reached out at Christmas to people she does not know.
Five years ago, she began adopting a family during the holidays and providing the family with a Christmas meal, additional food, clothing, toys, essential items for the home and a few presents just for fun. One single mom, a big Green Bay Packers fan, dreamed of getting a Jermichael Finley jersey.
“I looked high and low to find exactly what she wanted,” Tyler remembers.
She also brings a Christmas tree with ornaments.
Later, the mom, who had lost one of her jobs, and the four children in her family showered Tyler with handwritten thank-you letters.
“You have lifted such a big amount of stress from my head and from my heart,” the woman wrote.
Her grateful son offered to shovel Tyler’s driveway in appreciation for her kindness.
“You are an angel,” he told her. “This is going to be the best Christmas ever because of you.”
In years past, Tyler and friends have hand-delivered the gifts and food. One year, an excited child came running from the house shouting: “Santa is here!”
“What an amazing feeling to walk into a home and give them all nice presents,” Tyler said. “When we were young, it was about getting presents. But when you grow up and get to give back, it is an incredible feeling. Just knowing I did something good is the best gift I could ever get.”
She learned her generosity from her late mother, Mary Jo Tyler.
“She was a giving person who always helped people,” Tyler said. “It’s what you should do.”
Her employer, Hormel Foods of Beloit, also encourages giving back to the community.
Tyler, a 40-something single woman, said she feels blessed because she has a good job and a supportive family and friends.
“Not everyone is as fortunate,” Tyler said.
“If I can make someone’s Christmas a little brighter, that is what I want to do.”