Any way that American Legion Auxiliary members can help our veterans, military, and their families always leaves us with that feel-good of why we do what we do.
Post-holidays can sometimes leave people feeling down after the excitement of the end of the year. To get that feel-good momentum back, all while helping our deployed servicemembers, consider participating in greeting card projects.
Michigan ALA Unit 106 member and veteran Charly Lindquist-Mathews started Cards for Soldiers in 2005 to support her husband while he was deployed. During that time, she had surgery, so while she was recovering, she began making cards to send overseas. She also put together care packages.
“We just continued, and whenever the military units went over there, we supported them,” she said. “It kind of snowballed from there over the years.”
Most of the handmade cards sent are for members of the military to send back to their loved ones for birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, etc. Those involved in the project also make and sign cards for the troops themselves such as thank-yous, holidays, and encouragement.
There are over 8,000 card makers across the U.S. and in a handful of other countries, such as Guam, Panama, Great Britain, and Germany, who are involved, including other ALA units. It is a continuous project throughout the year. Cards are typically sent ahead of the holiday to make sure they reach troops with enough time for them to mail back to their loved ones. For example, cards for Valentine’s Day and Independence Day are usually mailed in November.
It has taken Lindquist-Mathews about four years to build a database, working with USOs, the Red Cross, and other organizations to send boxes of cards to various locations worldwide.
Each shipment includes 60 to 100 boxes with about 6,500 cards.
It’s important for Lindquist-Mathews and her unit to be involved in a project like this, she said.
“They see all the rewards of what we are doing, and we get a lot of thank-you cards back,” she said. “Every time I get a thank-you card back, I put it on Facebook so everyone can see what’s going on.”
Although hugely successful, the project hasn’t been without difficulties.
“Getting enough postage to keep sending the cards [is difficult],” Lindquist-Mathews said. “It’s all donations. In the beginning, I put a lot of my money out of my pocket into it.”
One way to help cover the cost of postage has been through people who include Cards for Soldiers in their will.
“Someone had left $2,500 in their mutual fund for postage,” she recalled.
It costs $200 to $1,000 to ship boxes each time. It takes about two to five days to get all the boxes ready for each delivery.
The American Legion Family gets involved through providing the group space to work in the Legion post, as well as postage money. Additionally, Junior members and other volunteers from the community are involved in the project.
Basic criteria for handmade cards
- No glitter for overseas cards
- Cards should not be too bulky
- Cards need to have their own envelope. Any size up to 5x7 inches
- Leave cards blank on the inside (don’t sign these; sentiments appropriate to the subject of the card are OK)
- Crafty additions are OK (buttons, rhinestones, etc.), but the card still needs to fit through a postage meter
- Dark cards must be lined with white on the inside
- General-occasion cards are always welcome with any of the cards you send, including birthday, miss you, thank you, etc.
- Try to set your thinking to six months before a holiday
- Make sure your signed cards are left unsealed and in the envelope. You can bundle them in quantities of 25.
- Each bundle should be labeled with the signed cards you are sending (i.e., Christmas, thank you, get well, Veterans Day).
For more details on card requirements, packing your boxes, and where to send cards, visit www.Facebook.com/greetingcardsforsoldiers
and check out the pinned post for detailed instructions.