“Sending cards is important because soldiers who are fighting and have fought for our country, as well as their family members, are all affected. They deserve our encouragement,” said Victoria Tropiano, Red Cross intern.
Service members receive cards from Dec. 15 to Jan. 15.
“I think since they do so much for us, the Holiday Mail for Heroes is a perfect time for us to give back. We can tell them we support what they are doing and that they are not forgotten,” Tropiano said.
Cards must be postmarked by Dec. 7 to be used this year. According to the Red Cross website, all holiday greetings should be addressed to Holiday Mail for Heroes, P.O. Box 5456, Capitol Heights MD 20791-5456.
Specific guidelines govern the Holiday for Heroes program. Participants are asked to use cards instead of individual letters. Inserts will be taken out of all cards. Drawings can be added as a part of the card.
“They have a sense of what you do and they put their hearts and souls into making those cards, drawing the stuff on them and coloring the cards,” said Marine Lance Cpl. Richie Chavis, in a Holiday Mail for Heroes video. “The ones from the little kids mean the most.”
Service members in the video said the program means a lot.
“As odd as it may seem, it still makes the service member feel better. It gives us something to look forward to. ... Every little bit counts. Every time someone says to get better it is an extra kick [of encouragement],” said Spc. Blake DeLoach (U.S. Army).
Additional guidelines request participants do not include personal information like email and home addresses. This is not a program to encourage a pen pal relationship. All cards can be signed.
Glitter on either the cards themselves or inside of the cards is discouraged. According to the guidelines, glitter can aggravate health issues of ill and injured warriors.
A bundle of cards do not need to be sent in separate envelopes. All envelopes will be removed from cards before distribution.
“All cards go to Maryland. They are then scanned and looked at,” Tropiano said. “If they are given the OK, then they are sent back to Red Cross chapters to be sorted. ... We separate the cards and send them on their way.”
Additional volunteers are encouraged to donate their time by helping Cleveland’s local Red Cross chapter in sorting through the mail. According to Tropiano, cards will be sorted based on who they are intended for: service members, veterans, or service members’ family.
She also said social media can make a large impact.
“If people are looking to help out, then social media is a big way to help. This can be done through tweeting and hash tagging [pound sign] ‘holidayherocampaign.’ Another way is word of mouth,” Tropiano said.
Postmarked cards labeled after Dec. 7 will not be used from Dec. 15 to Jan. 15. These cards will be saved for special occasions throughout the year, or for next year’s campaign.
More information can be found by calling Cleveland’s local Red Cross organization at 423-472-1595. Videos on Holiday Mail for Heroes can be found on YouTube.
Tropiano is hoping to get Cleveland and Bradley County residents interested in the program. Red Cross is reaching out to elementary, middle, and high school students to write cards. Adults of the community are also encouraged to participate.