The task of overseeing a drive to collect signed holiday cards for distribution to U.S. soldiers deployed around the world might seem like a natural fit for the director of WCU’s Office of Military Student Services. But Briana Ford is motivated to take on that role by another factor – her son, who is in the U.S. Air Force and stationed in Qatar.
The office recently concluded its annual “Cards for Soldiers” drive on WCU’s campus. The 2014 goal was 3,000 cards, but a total of 4,060 were collected. At various times throughout the fall semester, tables are set up across campus to give students an opportunity to sign Christmas cards and a variety of other holiday and greeting cards for distribution to deployed soldiers and veterans who are spending the holidays in Veterans Administration hospitals.
The effort also benefited this year from donations of cards from participants in WCU’s lifelong learning program, LIFE@WesternCarolina, and from the American Legion, Beth’s Hallmark of Waynesville, the Western North Carolina Veteran’s Council, the Walk Skate Church of Franklin and Cullowhee United Methodist Church.
“This is our fourth year doing this event, and each year the WCU community amazes me with its love and support for our service members,” Ford said. “We participated the first year as a community service project to help then-Smoky Mountain High School senior Michael Moyle collect cards. We had such a great response from WCU students that we decided to continue it the next year.”
Cards collected during the drive are distributed randomly to U.S. military men and women by the Red Cross. During the 2013 holiday season, a deployed soldier who is a WCU distance learning student sent an email to Ford thanking her for the card he received. “Reading about how much it meant to him to receive a Christmas card at a time when he could not be with his family, or even in his own home for the holidays, made me realize what a big morale booster this project is for our service members and how important it is to continue this project in the future,” Ford said.
Ford’s son, Airman Tripp Simmons, joined the military straight out of high school and has plans to enroll in one of WCU’s online degree programs. This will be the second straight year Simmons will not be with his family for the holidays.
“I think of all the other families who are especially missing their sons and daughters during this time of year, just as we are missing our son, and that inspires me to continue this card drive to show these service members we miss them, we are thinking of them, and we appreciate them for their many sacrifices,” said Ford. “We want to make sure our service members never forget they have the support of Western Carolina University no matter where they are.”
The holiday-season card drive may have ended, but donations of signed and unsigned cards are welcome year-round, Ford said. Individuals interested in participating in the effort should contact Ford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-227-3074.