Red Cross gathers Holiday Mail for Heroes

Gabby Boucher, 5, finishes a Christmas card she wrote to a U.S. service member Saturday as part of the Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes card signing at Capital Mall in Jefferson City. The cards are sent to American military, veterans hospitals and other locations.

Gabby Boucher, 5, finishes a Christmas card she wrote to a U.S. service member Saturday as part of the Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes card signing at Capital Mall in Jefferson City. The cards are sent to American military, veterans hospitals and other locations. Katie Alaimo/News Tribune

Within minutes of setting up Saturday afternoon, the card station was filled with people signing their holiday greetings to the country’s service members.

The American Red Cross Heart of Missouri Chapter sponsored its second Holiday Mail for Heroes program Saturday afternoon at the Capital Mall in Jefferson City. The Holiday Mail for Heroes program, which began nationally in 2006, allows schools, organizations and companies to create and write cards to military members, and the Red Cross delivers the cards to military members stationed overseas and locally.

Columbia Insurance Group and Commerce Bank sponsored the project, with the Red Cross providing the cards.

Dave Griffith, the Red Cross chapter’s executive director, said as a veteran, this particular event is near and dear to him. Griffith said when he was in the service, many soldiers often didn’t receive anything when mail call came around and in the holiday season everyone is hoping to get warm wishes sent to them.

Hillary DiMaggio, 33, stopped by the station with her daughter, Aryana DiMaggio-Hill, to sign their best wishes to service members. DiMaggio said she works for Veterans United Home Loans and is a big supporter of veterans.

“Anything that we can do to help out,” DiMaggio said.

Ciaira Nettles, 25, also stopped by the station Saturday with her three young children, all of whom signed their own card to service members.

“I really enjoy everything that they’re doing for the country,” Nettles said of those serving. “I just want them to know that we’re behind them 100 percent.”

Clayton Kennedy, community market manager for the Red Cross chapter, said so often, much of the work done by the Red Cross is responding to tragedy and it’s nice to have a moment to simply say thank you to those who serve.

“When I get to be involved in a moment like this, it’s really beautiful,” Kennedy said.

Griffith said the goal is to have 1,500 to 2,000 cards to send to service members and while some will be delivered overseas, the bulk of the cards signed locally will be hand delivered to service members and veterans in the area. Griffith said the chapter will deliver cards at the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital in Columbia and at veterans homes in Mexico and St. James.

Last year, the chapter sent nearly 1,000 cards to military members and has prepared 2,500 cards for this year’s program.

In 2012, the national program sent nearly 1.5 million cards.

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