January 17, 2012
So, this happened:
Valentines for Soldiers began three years ago when my friend Rachael agreed to let me co-opt her bringing-homemade-cake-to-a-local-bar-on-Monday-nights-tradition and turn one of those nights into a small craft-making, cocktail-drinking, and package-assembling event among Twitter friends. We packed about a dozen boxes that year, all of us had fun, and we agreed to do it again the next year.
As you may recall, this time last year Jill was about to face her first round of chemo, and frankly I was not in much of a place for event-planning. Still, with the help of friends, Valentines for Soldiers happened again in 2011, growing in size a ‘lil bit and even making it onto the evening news. That year we mailed out around twenty boxes full of donated items, baked goods, & valentines, garnering just enough monetary donations to cover the shipping costs.
Last night, at Valentines for Soldiers 2012, over 350 people gathered at the Saint Arnold Brewing Company here in Houston, crafted hundreds of valentines, bought dinner from two of Houston’s best food trucks (which donated 5% of their night’s earnings), helped fill and pack 75 boxes to be mailed to troops stationed abroad, raised over $4000 in total contributions, and spent the course of the evening stunning, inspiring, and completely overwhelming me.
a) people L-O-V-E to play around with crafts. seriously—we couldn’t get them to stop! old people, young people, men, women…there’s something about the chance to be creative and just “play” in the markers, stickers, paper, glue, and scissors that really seems to speak to folks. the results were funny, sweet, goofy, and in some cases, downright stunning.
b) bake sales still work. with generous contributions from at least 30 bakers and generous donations from attendees—including homemade kolaches, stuffed pretzels, bourbon balls, cupcakes, marshmallows, pies, and gorgeous cakes & cookies of all kinds— we managed to raise over $2000 from the bake sale alone. SHUT THE FRONT DOOR.
c) veterans, active service members, and their families appreciate every bit of support from us. from the parents who submitted addresses of their sons and daughters to the veterans who came out to our event to pack boxes and pay it forward, I have been humbled by the loyalty, strength, and love within our military community. their affirmations cemented the importance of what we were up to.
d) it’s just plain amazing what a little idea, a lot of planning, and some genuine enthusiasm can do. go getcha some!
Approximately $800 of the money we raised will be used to mail out packages; the rest will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project by the end of this week. If any of you out there would be interested in creating a similar event in your city, let me know! I plan to build a basic “How-To” section on our event website.
Recipe comin’ atcha next week! Hope everyone’s keeping well out there.
Valentines for Soldiers 2012:
newspaper feature in Houston Chronicle (pre-event)
television segment on Fox 26 news (night-of event)
additional photographs courtesy Ruthie Johnson Miller