Last updated: July 24. 2013 2:03PM - 201 Views

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Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

While military deployments and hospital stays may keep many of our nation’s heroes away from their families this holiday season, the American Red Cross is collecting and distributing cards that send words of encouragement, gratitude and cheer.

“We’re going to be doing Christmas cards for the military personnel, both active and veterans,” Mary Arnzen, Executive Director of the Ohio River Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross, said.

Between Oct. 1 and Dec. 7, Americans can give something that means a lot by sending a card of thanks and support to members of the Armed Forces, veterans and their families.

“It just takes a moment to sign a card to share your appreciation for the sacrifices members of the military community make,” Arnzen said. “You say ‘thanks,’ we’ll do the rest.”

The Red Cross is inviting the public to send messages of thanks and holiday cheer by mailing them to:

Holiday Mail for Heroes

P.O. Box 5456

Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456

Pitney Bowes Inc. receives cards at the special Holiday Mail post office box, and screens them for hazardous materials. Pitney Bowes then packages and ships the cards at no charge, and contributes thousands of volunteer hours at sites around the country.

Red Cross volunteers across the U.S. and on military installations overseas then sort and deliver the cards throughout the holiday season. The Red Cross and Pitney Bowes have received and distributed more than 4.7 million cards for members of the U.S. Armed Forces, veterans and their families since the program began in 2006.

“There’s a couple of ways they can do it,” Arnzen said. “We can work through National Red Cross, and you can actually send them. Also, we’re doing them here locally. So if anyone has a group or an organization that they would like to get together and sign the card, because we have the cards. Then we will get those cards to those groups and organizations, and they can send a message to an active service member or a veteran. And then we will distribute those. They can say - ‘thanks for serving our country, and happy holidays,’ or something like that.”

Arnzen said the cards are not addressed to any individual service member.

“There’s just a bunch of cards that will be passed out to service men and women,” Arnzen said.

To ensure that cards are delivered in time for the holidays, they must be postmarked no later than Dec. 7. Individuals are asked to refrain from sending “care packages,” monetary donations, or using glitter or any other kinds of inserts with the cards. More information and card requirements are atredcross.org/holidaymail..

“On a local level, we are conducting a Christmas card signing for local veterans and active military personnel. We will have Christmas cards here at the chapter that we can share with our community, Arnzen said. “If you have a club or organization that would like to write a message in these cards for our active military and local veterans, please let us know and we will deliver them for you once you have written your message! It is a great way to say thanks to the local veterans & active military personnel for serving our country and also to wish them Happy Holidays!

Anyone wanting more information may call the chapter at 740-354-3293, they can visit redcross.org or follow the local chapter on facebook (www.facebook.com/orvredcross).

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at flewis@heartlandpublications.com

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