Shrewsbury – One day Amanda Sullivan was sitting in church, and she heard a story about a little boy who wanted to get 1,000 get-well cards. Thanks to the church, he got 3,000.
Having some friends in the armed forces, Sullivan thought, “Why not do this for the troops?” And so she did.
With the support of the Liberty Church in Shrewsbury, and Pastors Will Bard and Jim Pourteau, Operation Christmas Cards was launched in time for the 2009 holiday season. The mission is simple and inspiring – to have a card for each deployed soldier during the holidays delivering warm wishes and appreciation. Kind words, even from strangers, can be very meaningful, especially to those so far from home at this time of year.
Word was spread through the church community and online via Facebook and “cause-related” websites.
In its first year, Sullivan and her crew collected and sent 87,000 cards. This year, 140,000 cards have been sent. The cards come from all 50 states, and several countries including Australia, Canada, China, Italy, the Netherlands, Trinidad and the UK.
Sullivan explained how she gets so many contributions,
“People tend to send in groups of cards – one lady sent us almost 15,000 cards.”
As for the reaction from the soldiers, Sullivan said that they are very appreciative. In one case, she heard from a soldier who had received a card at a hard time for him personally, and he wasn’t getting a lot of mail.
“The card reminded him that he was fighting for a country that cares about the men and women defending it,” she said.
For the contributors who send in cards, the task of participating has its rewards as well. Sullivan shared the story of one contributor who wrote nearly 800 cards with her mother; the older woman suffers from Alzheimer’s. Working on a productive task seemed very therapeutic for her mother, keeping her focused and engaged.
Of course, any nonprofit organization requires a lot of work, and Operation Christmas Cards is no exception. It is volunteer run, largely due to Sullivan herself, who also works full time. Raising donations for postage is also a challenge. Most support comes from the home base, the Liberty Church in Shrewsbury. According to Pastor Will Bard,
“It is exciting for us to see one of our parishioners have active vision and mission. Amanda is truly a young woman with heart,” Bard said.
The church provides storage and access to offices and computers, Bard said.
“To get 100,000 plus cards prepared and ready for mail, as well as to field the thousands of e-mails, having an administrative location has really aided in this process,” Bard said. “Our church is deeply blessed to be the integral part of this, and many volunteer hands have come alongside of Amanda, who is essentially the greatest of volunteers.”
Having nearly doubled in its first two years, Operation Christmas Cards seems off to an impressive start – supporting soldiers and inspiring a global community.