in partnership

Soldiers are getting a little piece of home thanks to this local woman

Dyan Smith is your average woman, Arlington resident, hairdresser, and mom to her German Shepherd, but what sets her apart is her passion for giving back to the men and women serving our country overseas.

It was in November 2010 when Smith and her husband went to visit their niece in the Navy. Smith said she had never toured a ship, or a base or anything like that until this visit when her niece was about to deploy on her first big deployment. "During our tour of the ship I kept looking for ideas for packages to send to her," Smith explained. "She like most of us is addicted to coffee and I told her I would send her all the coffee she would like." After she offered the coffee, her niece was ecstatic, but then there was a long pause of silence. Smith's niece explained that she felt guilty for receiving packages, and notes when so many on the ship didn't have that.

With tears in her eyes, Smith told me that she still gets tight in the chest when she thinks about that moment. She said she left that trip saying to herself that she knows she can collect enough items to send care boxes to everyone on her niece's ship. It was one day later when Smith had sent an email to all her clients and everyone she could think of asking them if they would help write notes to express gratitude to everyone on the ship. "My clients being the amazing people they are, started bringing me notes and treats," said Smith with a smile on her face. "And it all evolved from there." It was that moment that started Operation Turbo.

The name Operation Turbo, Smith explains came from her niece's nickname, Turbo. "Her position on the ship was called Turbo and that's what her peers on the ship called her."

Smith said she was not prepared for how fast Operation Turbo took off. She said it was never supposed to go past that one ship, but word got out and now in 2017, Smith has shipped more than 5,000 boxes to military members overseas. "I remember when I started the Facebook page and thought if 50 people liked it I would be excited." The Operation Turbo Facebook page now has over 1,200 likes.

Since Operation Turbo has taken off, Smith says they have tried to move away from sending just sweets and goodies. "If you think of a pyramid, the primary thing we send is protein, then personal items and the last little bit are treats, but we get the most requests for protein."

What sets Operation Turbo apart from any other nonprofit sending care packages is that they personalize every box. "I will always send a quality box and I don't care if I send a smaller amount than anybody else when it comes to boxes, to me it's about quality, not quantity," explained Smith. "We pack male boxes and we pack female boxes, we pack for climate, so it's very personalized when we pack them and that is something that I think sets us apart."

Smith says she couldn't do this on her own. She says it's her donors and volunteers who really keep Operation Turbo going. "It's people that support our military who give us so much that inspire me. When we hear back from the men and women who receive our boxes, when we get pictures, and just people caring about our military, that is what inspires me."

Small local nonprofits like Operation Turbo need the support, funding and donations from people like us to be able to keep on giving back to their cause. If you would like to donate to Operation Turbo or learn more about the nonprofit, click here.