A Dickson County girl who has collected thousands of cards for troops serving the country received a special thank you Wednesday.
In her 11 years, Janessa Wine has sent more Christmas cards than most people will in an entire lifetime, but she doesn't personally know a single recipient.
"If you can help someone, I feel like you're not being selfish," she said. "All these people that aren't coming home for Christmas, they'll actually get a taste of home when they're millions of miles away."
The seventh-grader collects cards for the Holiday Mail for Heroes program with the American Red Cross. The nonprofit will ship the cards to soldiers serving locally and around the world.
For Janessa, the idea sparked several years ago when she saw a public service announcement featuring entertainer Amy Grant.
At the time, Janessa was learning to play Grant's song Tender Tennessee Christmas on guitar.
A few hundred cards bought with birthday and Christmas money her first year became 1,000 cards the next year.
Now, with some help, Janessa has collected more than 14,000 cards for the troops.
"It's not just a Janessa event or a Wine family event. It's been a community event," Janine Wine said. "Just to know that what she's doing really does make a difference for those people who are away from their families. I think that just really made a difference with her also."
As she delivered the pile of cards Wednesday, the star who first inspired her action surprised Janessa Wine with a simple thank you.
"I think she's a young woman that really understands the value of community," Grant said. "And I think that's what a kid does. A kid gets to the heart of a story. They're not thinking about the mechanics. They're thinking, 'What? Somebody's not home. They need to hear from somebody that loves them.'"
The Holiday Mail for Heroes program has been around for about five years. The American Red Cross will collect those cards through the end of the week.
Grant said she was so moved by Janessa Wine's generosity, she invited the girl to perform Tender Tennessee Christmas with her and Vince Gill at their show at the Ryman Auditorium later this year.
Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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