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Federal Way organization makes, sends cards to U.S. soldiers
Sandy Allnock had an abundance of homemade cards and nothing to do with them.
She received a spark of inspiration in 2007 when she heard the story of a woman who sent cards to soldiers overseas. Allnock took the idea to an online forum where others expressed interest in sending their card caches overseas. A deployed soldier answered on the message board and became their first contact within the military.
Over the years, Operation Write Home, as the group became known, snowballed.
Operation Write Home is a non-profit organization that sends handmade cards to deployed U.S. soldiers so they can write home to their families. The organization accepts card and monetary donations.
Operation Write Home serves 200 units each month, sending each unit an average of 350 cards, totaling 70,000 cards a month, Allnock said. Units can request more cards or fewer cards, depending on need. The group has sent nearly 3 million cards.
This year, as Mother’s Day was quickly approaching, Allnock took a box of cards to a recently returned unit. The United Service Organizations Inc. she spoke with didn’t understand why Allnock was delivering a box of Mother’s Day cards, but a soldier walking past recognized the box immediately and took it to distribute among the soldiers.
“It was nice to see that they recognized it,” Allnock said. “The soldiers, they get it.”
Cards are made by between 10,000 and 12,000 volunteers — with 3,000 or 4,000 being regular contributors.
Allnock often works 16-hour days to keep up with the card donations and logistics of running the organization, she said.
Training new volunteers is time consuming, so Allnock does most of the work herself. But receiving emails, letters and even Skype calls from soldiers to thank her for Operation Write Home’s efforts keep her going.
“I want them to have what they need to keep in contact with their families,” she said.
Within the Federal Way community, people support the organization at whatever level they can. Some take up card making just to participate.
School children and community members write letters to soldiers, to be mailed along with the cards. Some people are also generous with their money — when waiting in line at the post office with boxes that read “Operation Write Home,” Allnock has received monetary donations from people who recognize the organization, she said.
Funding for the organization comes from donations from card makers, mostly, as well as partners, including Hero Arts, Mama Elephant and Paper Smooches — businesses that donate a portion of their proceeds to Operation Write Home.
Material-wise, cards cost a couple bucks to make.
“[But] when you add the time in, it gets into all kinds of figures,” Allnock said.
Some card makers spend an hour or more working on a single card, which fits right into Operation Write Home’s mantra of quality over quantity.
“We’re not here to make numbers, we’re here to serve the troops,” Allnock said.
Cards often are used in scrapbooks or other memory crafts, so cards have to stand the test of time.
Allnock always enjoyed arts and crafts, so when she heard about sending cards to troops, it was a perfect fit, she said. Operation Write Home offers webinars — some free, some as fundraisers — to teach beginners the basics of quality card making. Operation Write Home sticks to strict guidelines, which can be found on their website.
With many units being pulled out of conflict in the Middle East, the organization may find it has fewer card requests, however, as long as soldiers are stationed overseas, cards will be sent.
“We’re going to do that as long as people are out there,” Allnock said.
For more information about Operation Write Home or card making tips and guidelines, visit www.operationwritehome.org.