Holiday Mail For Heroes Undergoes Changes 

Story by Lanet Hane – American Red Cross Volunteer

Holiday Mail for Heroes cards from the 2013  writing campaign. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross
Holiday Mail for Heroes cards from the 2013 signing campaign. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

American Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes program is an annual program focused on bringing a little more holiday thanks and cheer to veterans, those currently serving in the armed forces, and their families. Individuals send cards, with handwritten notes of holiday tidings and thanks, to the Red Cross. The Red Cross distributes the cards to those who will most appreciate them during the holiday season. Veteran’s hospitals, Veteran’s homes, and families of currently deployed personnel are frequent recipients of Holiday Mail for Heroes holiday cards.

For the 2014 holiday season, the Red Cross is changing the format of the Holiday Mail for Heroes program to better serve military personnel as well as make effective use of donor resources. Rather than send all cards to a centralized national location, as has been done in the past, the Red Cross is empowering individual Red Cross chapters to collect cards from their own communities. Mike Booth, the Services to Armed Forces Director at the American Red Cross, says this new decentralized approach to the program will continue to be effective, but will reduce the number of financial and human resources.

Mike also emphasizes the fact that this program is designed not only for active military members. While Holiday Mail for Heroes does provide cards for those in active service, the program has a much wider scope. The cards contributed by community members may go to any number of people connected to the military.

Holiday Mail for Heroes card signing event at Neilson Place, Bemidji, MN, November 3, 2014.
Holiday Mail for Heroes card signing event at Neilson Place, Bemidji, MN, November 3, 2014. Photo credit: Linda Barkley/American Red Cross

Because the program is not limited to currently active military personnel, it also provides a unique opportunity for people to partner with the Red Cross in remembering veterans.  Many veterans receiving holiday cards are patients in VA hospitals or residents at State Veteran’s Homes, and have little contact with friends or family. Holiday Mail for Heroes connects these veterans with individuals who have taken the time and care to personalize a holiday card and send it to them in thanks for their sacrifice.

And, while a holiday card may seem a small triviality, they are anything but trivial to those who receive them. “This program continues to hold great value,” says Mike. “The veterans, wounded warriors, and military families who receive these tokens appreciate them in ways that might surprise many of us. For some of these people, one of these cards can really make their day.”

If you plan to participate in this program, please review program guidelines for creating and sending your cards. To ensure card delivery in time for the holidays, the local Red Cross office must receive cards no later than Friday, December 5.

Saying Thanks to Our Heroes

Holiday Mail for Heroes card signing event at the Mall of America, Bloomington, MN, November 2012.
Holiday Mail for Heroes card signing event at the Mall of America, Bloomington, MN, November 2012.

The Holiday Mail for Heroes program has been a nationwide highlight of the American Red Cross holiday season for the past six years. During that time, the Red Cross has received more than 6.5 million cards of holiday greetings and gratitude from the American public that are distributed at military installations, veterans hospitals, and in other locations around the world, letting military members know that we’re thinking of them and thankful for their service.

This year, the American Red Cross Northern Minnesota Region will support Holiday Mail for Heroes with a card signing event at the Mall of America on Sunday, November 10, from 10AM – 3PM in Nordstrom Court. The signed cards will be collected for screening, sorting, and distribution with more than a million other cards that Americans sign around the country. Thank you to Deluxe Corporation and CenterPoint Energy for sponsoring this event. It will be great for the whole family. We hope that you’ll join us.

If you’re unable to attend, you can still participate in Holiday Mail for Heroes. Click here for card guidelines, mailbox address for signed cards, and program deadline. Call us at (612) 871-7676 and let us know about your group card signing event.

Meanwhile, do you know that throughout the year the American Red Cross provides emergency communications and financial assistance, and deployment services to more than 2 million U.S. service members and many of our nation’s 24 million veterans around the world. Click here to learn more about American Red Cross services for military families.

Star Bank shines on Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes

The American Red Cross collected holiday cards throughout the past several weeks for distribution on military bases and hospitals, veterans’ hospitals and other locations in the U.S. and abroad.  More than a million cards were collected this year, bringing the total for Holiday Mail for Heroes to about 4.5 million cards during the past five years. One of the program’s strongest supporters is Star Bank in Eden Prairie. Katie Incantalupo explains why…

Katie Incantalupo (left) and service members helped collect more than 19,000 cards for the 2011 Holiday Mail for Heroes program. Photo courtesy of Star Bank.

The leaders of Star Bank, including both President and CEO Harry Wahlquist and I, have a strong commitment to the mission of the American Red Cross to provide relief to victims of disaster and to help people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.

We’ve been hosting quarterly blood drives at Star Bank in partnership with North Central Blood Services for about 12 months. Harry is a longtime Red Cross Board Member and I’m a Lifetime Member of the Tiffany Circle Society of Women Leaders within the Red Cross. I was elected to be a member of the National Council for Tiffany Circle in 2010, and my participation in that governing body brought forth the opportunity for me to lead the Holiday Mail for Heroes campaign on a national level for the 2011 holiday season.

Katie Incantalupo (right) and Elena Luca (left), sign Holiday Mail for Heroes cards in Washington, DC. Photo by Dennis Drenner/American Red Cross

I have spoken with many service men and women over the past four months about the Holiday Mail campaign and have heard wonderful stories about how much it means to receive a card when you are serving away from home over the holidays. The card campaign makes a real difference in our service members’ lives. Star Bank hosted a card signing event that was well attended by members of the community, including several local “celebs.” I’m so excited that more than 19,000 holiday cards were signed in Minnesota alone this year!

Katie Incantalupo gets ready to donate blood. Photo courtesy of Star Bank.

It has been an honor to assist the Red Cross in growing awareness and participation on behalf of Holiday Mail for Heroes and I’m thankful that I’ve been able to serve the organization in this way, both personally and professionally.

Katie Incantalupo is a Red Cross volunteer and the Director of Marketing for Star Bank in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. The mailbox for the 2011 Holiday Mail for Heroes program is now closed, but Americans wanting to help military members, veterans and their families can visit the Red Cross holiday giving catalog and click on “Help Our Troops.” The online catalog offers symbolic donations to help provide members of the Armed Forces with phone cards and comfort kits as well as assist homeless veterans, among many other options.