Sunday, January 01, 2006

Hartland couple are model supporters of troops

Wes and Donna Nakagiri of Hartland, MI., take helping U.S. troops seriously. For more than a year, the couple have been sending items to members of the armed services.

"We have no kids and no pets, we've adopted the armed forces," Donna, said, laughing. "It's very gratifying to know you've touched their (the servicemen's) lives."

The couple have received numerous letters, cards of thanks and e-mails for their endeavors. The servicemen call them heroes and thank them for taking time out of their lives to think of them.

"We are very appreciative for all the thank you's and we have invited many of these men to visit us," Donna said.

She is an Illinois native, and her husband, an engineer, grew up in California, first coming to Flint to attend GMI (General Motors Institute) in Flint, now Kettering University. They have lived in Hartland for 10 years.

Wes said he and his wife have been sending all types of care packages to troops, including, snacks, beef jerky, candy, magazines and personal care items.

"We first got involved when we read about a troop rally that was taking place in Howell," said Donna. "We bought up all the 50-cent paperbacks that they had at the Hartland library and went to the store and filled a cart with items and took them all to the rally. That was the beginning."

"I couldn't find appropriate greeting cards to send to the troops, so had someone do some custom-made ones for a while," she said. "Then I started a home business LLC, which grew out of our troop support efforts."

The Web site is So now she creates cards for the troops.

The Nakagiris have been corresponding with Marine Captain Gary Bourland, a native of Denver, who is married and has two children.

"We kid each other about hockey. I keep telling him the Avalanche can't compare with my team (Detroit Red Wings)," said Donna.

One time when asked what the troops needed he wrote jokingly, a red Corvette and some supermodels.

"I kept thinking about this," said Donna. "We couldn't find a model of a red Corvette, but finally purchased one on e-Bay. As for the models, I asked Wes, how about contacting some modeling agencies and finding some autographed photos of top models?"

She went online and contacted top modeling agencies from New York City to California and places in between.

"I was surprised that my wife was able to make a positive contact," said Wes.

"I just happened to contact the right place at the right time," said Donna. "I contacted PLANITm, a modeling agency in New York. The agency's vice president, Patrick St. Thomas had a brother that was going to be deployed to Iraq in mid-January. He wanted this to happen."

They contacted top model Cindy Crawford and Niki Taylor, another well-known model, who agreed to participate. A dozen magazines with Crawford on the front sporting a "dog tag" were autographed by her and sent to the Nakagiris.

Taylor signed 30 photographs saying "Hurry home" to the servicemen.

Marilyn Model Management, Inc., another modeling agency, sent 40 un-autographed photos of different models.

Donna secured as many individual envelopes for the photos and sent them all out.

"We call the captain, Captain B. We I told him that those photos of the models were to go to only the single servicemen and he wasn't to get one. He will be surprised when he gets the red Corvette," said Donna.

The Nakagiris weren't sure the special photos would reach Iraq before Christmas, but the servicemen know they are on the way. Whenever they arrive, they are expected to make an impact.

As long as the need is there, the Nakagiris will continue to supply servicemen with supplies and cards. It's something that they love to do!

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