Heidi Leist started Lemongrass Spa products out of her basement several years ago. The company makes lotions, scrubs, and other all-natural, homemade beauty products out of a small warehouse in Jefferson County.
Four years ago, one of Leist's sales representatives from Iowa had a female friend deployed to Iraq and she bundled some of the spa goodies with a nice note thanking her friend for her service.
When Leist heard of the idea, and the fact that many women do not receive care packages, it inspired a bigger idea.
"I was so inspired by the story. Citizens do great with care packages but sometimes the female soldiers get forgotten and it only makes sense to send them something just for women," Leist said.
She started small, getting names from clients and sales reps of women serving overseas and soon, the few bottles of lotion, scrub and hydrating cream turned into a mission.
"It is made by women's hands here in Colorado and enjoyed by women serving our country overseas. They can take their combat boots off and slip into a nice soak," Leist said.
That thought, is what made the Lemongrass Spa Products team think of the name Freedom Feet.
Over the past few years, they have been able to send hundreds of the foot care kits to women in Iraq and Afghanistan and this year, their goal was to send 2,011 for the year. At the end of the summer, they had sent over one thousand and are hoping their holiday drive will help them reach their goal.
"To have all the female soldiers spoiled with a holiday foot care kit this holiday season would be wonderful," Leist said.
Lemongrass Spa Products charges $24 per foot kit to send overseas but says all of the money is put directly back into providing the products and for more foot care kits through the program.
Sale reps and friends get together for packing parties at the Pine warehouse and put the kits in red and white striped hand labeled bags and often include other goodies in the boxes to be shipped overseas.
It may seem like a small gesture to some, but soldiers who have been on the receiving end of these kits say it doesn't just pamper tired feet, it lifts tired spirits as well.
"They were awesome. The foot care kits were unbelievable, especially in Iraq where you are flying missions up to six to eight hours a day in 120-degree heat," Army Captain Anne Maniscalco said.
Maniscalco has done two tours in Iraq as a Blackhawk Helicopter Pilot commanding a unit that transports soldiers and supplies around the battlefield.
"Women overseas are doing everything the men are doing. I can fly a helicopter with the best of them," Maniscalco said.
Although there are not days off in Iraq, Maniscalco and other women in her company were able to get together for a spa night.
"To get mail is awesome and then for it to be something that actually lets you feel like a girl again really lifts the soldiers' spirits," she said. "The girls absolutely love it. For one night, we took of the rank and we were just mothers and daughters and sisters and friends. We just tried to pretend we weren't in a combat zone."
Although the kits are just for girls, some of the men still wanted to join in.
"My husband was deployed with me and I'm not going to lie, he would steal my foot care kit and do his feet just as well," Maniscalco laughed.
Maniscalco and other women who received the special care packages gave Heidi Leist and Lemongrass Spa Products a framed and signed picture along with a flag that flew in Iraq to show their appreciation for what she is doing.
Leist says she is just happy to send a little piece of home to the girls overseas.
"We are able to touch lives, to change the lives of these soldiers," Leist said.
The holiday mail deadline for the troops this year is November 18. To donate or order a foot care kit for a female soldier overseas, head to www.OurLemongrassSpa.com/Freedom
According to the Department of Defense, currently there are 26,123 women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)