By Kathryn Korostoff, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Santa's elves must be jealous. Even they would be hard-pressed to write 175,000 personalized Christmas cards in time for the holidays. But Amanda Sullivan of Shrewsbury could teach those elves a thing or two about mass quantity production with a personal touch.
Sullivan is founder and director of Operation Christmas Cards (OCC). With the support of the Liberty Church in Shrewsbury, OCC was launched in time for the 2009 holiday season. Its mission? To “love our troops one card at a time.” This volunteer-run organization collects Christmas cards to send to troops and facilitates shipping them overseas.
In 2009, OCC collected and delivered 87,000 cards. In 2010, 140,000 cards were sent. This year, the goal is an astounding 175,000 cards – and Sullivan seems quite confident the group will make it.
The cards are sent in from volunteers from all 50 states, and several countries. Acknowledging that 175,000 cards is a huge amount of growth, Sullivan explained that OCC has started to seek corporate sponsors to help with the costs.
“We now have a corporate partnership with EKSuccess Brands [a company known for its scrapbooking, jewelry-making and related products]. Through them, we have arranged a series of card-making events at Michael's stores, including the one in Shrewsbury Oct. 29.”
Interested volunteers are encouraged to visit the Shrewsbury Michael's store for a holiday card-making event; the store will collect the cards and ship them to OCC. Sullivan explained one reason why so many people seem to be supporting OCC.
“People who may have sent care packages in the past need an affordable alternative. Cards are a simple and affordable way to support our troops in this economy.”
Some of the cards come from individual contributors, others from groups. This year, one Marine's mother has pledged 50,000 cards.
The 175,000 cards will mostly go to troops deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, with some going to a few other locations including Egypt and Germany. Sullivan encourages local residents with friends or loved ones overseas to email OCC their address, so they can send cards to their entire unit.
Sullivan reported that she has heard many wonderful stories about the impact the cards have had on soldiers. She cites this example,
“We went to Chicago and met many service members there,” she said. “They told us how simple cards can really raise their morale…knowing that people back home do care. And for some, it may be the only mail they receive.”
Due to its growth, the program is being transitioned to the Liberty Church's outreach program, which is run by the New England Dream Center. The goal is to help attract more sponsors to offset the high overseas shipping costs.
Sullivan encouraged people to send in cards and explained, “Don's apply postage to your cards – just send us the cards. They are sent overseas in bulk.”
Individual donations of cash are also welcome and help with shipping costs.