The Western & Central New York Region of the American Red Cross includes 26 counties from Buffalo to Syracuse, and the region collected about 26,000 holiday cards for service members and veterans separated from their families during this year’s “Holiday Mail for Heroes” program.
James Love, Director of Military Programs & International Services for the region, said the cards collected from schools, organizations, businesses and individuals were distributed to active military members and veterans at various locations throughout the region: Veterans Administration hospitals in Bath, Batavia, Buffalo, Canandaigua and Syracuse; Niagara Falls Air Force Base; Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse; the New York State Veterans’ Home in Oxford; National Guard Battalions and Brigades; numerous Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts; and several county Veterans Service agencies.
“By sending a card of thanks and support to members of the Armed Forces, veterans and their families, people from throughout Western and Central New York were truly able to ‘give something that means something’ this holiday season,” Love said. “These men and women have done so much for us, and these heartfelt holiday messages are a simple but powerful way of giving back.”
The 2014 Holiday Mail for Heroes program had a different look, as cards were collected and distributed by local Red Cross chapters. In the past, cards were sent to a national Holiday Mail for Heroes P.O. Box before distribution. This change allowed Red Cross offices to better concentrate on reaching out to the members of the military, veterans and their families in the communities in which the Red Cross serves.
As always, several groups throughout the Western & Central New York Region stepped up to make the program a success. In the Central New York Chapter, students from the East Syracuse-Minoa Central School District filled out or made hundreds of Holiday Mail for Heroes cards. Sue Kowalski, the librarian at Pine Grove Middle School (grades 6-8), was one of the staff members who supervised the students. We asked Sue to tell us more about why they wanted to take part in the program and here’s what she told us:
“The students in the East Syracuse-Minoa School District are always willing to give back to their community. It’s not unusual to see students heading up collections for organizations, for families, or individuals. Students are willing to shop, donate, volunteer, cut their hair, shave their heads, walk for miles, run, read, sing, and create to advance a cause or raise awareness for a campaign.
“Recently, the Pine Grove Middle School Student Council invited students to write holiday cards for veterans. Holiday cards were donated and kits were sent to each of our six schools to equip students with the supplies to write the cards.
“Through health classes, the libraries, study halls, book nooks, lunch clubs, service teams, homerooms, before school and after school, our students rallied! They shared their gratitude, their compassion, and their wishes for a healthy, safe, and family-filled holiday season. Many shared perspectives of service members in their own families, as well. Students’ genuine concern for the well-being of our service members was evident throughout the process. Many are asking what we will do next to show our appreciation.”
You can get involved, too. There are many ways to help military members, veterans and their families through the American Red Cross. Click here to learn all of the ways the Red Cross supports military families.
If you’d like to get involved through your local chapter, contact James Love, Director of Military Programs & International Services for the Western & Central New York Region, at 585-241-4418 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos of Pine Grove Middle School students courtesy of Sue Kowalski.