Midlands Students Make Holiday Greetings for the Troops!

Thank you very much to all the students across the Midlands who helped contribute to our 2012 Holiday Mail for Heroes program!  On December 4th, over 6,700 holiday cards created by students from Kershaw, Lexington, Newberry, Orangeburg and Richland school districts were presented to the American Red Cross, Columbia Region at Carver-Lyon Elementary School.

A group of studnts with some of the cards they decorated for the troops.

A group of students at Carver-Lyon Elementary School present the Red Cross with over 6,700 holiday cards for service men and women.

Students across the Midlands spent weeks designing, writing and putting finishing touches on their cards so that they could bring a “touch of home” to our troops during the holiday season.

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These creative cards made by students will be delivered to service men and women as part of the 2012 Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes program.

Colorful cards, including some written in Spanish, were created by students in conjunction with the Red Cross 2012 Holiday Mail for Heroes, a program that has collected millions of holiday wishes from everyday Americans expressing their gratitude to our service men and women stationed around the world.

Regional CEO Scott R. Salemme and Kitrina Wright presenting a certificate of thanks to Dr. Traci Cooper.

Regional CEO, Scott R. Salemme and Board Member,  Kitrina Wright present a certificate of appreciation to Dr. Traci Young Cooper for her leadership in challenging area schools to make over 6,700 holiday cards.

Time is running out to mail your cards! The last day to send in your cards to the troops is this Friday, December 7th. If you would like to participate, visit www.redcross.org/holidaymail to get started!

Please send your cards to the following address: Holiday Mail for Heroes, P.O. Box 5456, Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456. 

This Year Americans of All Ages Made Holiday Mail for Heroes A Success!

For the fifth year in a row, people from all corners of the country showed their incredible support for the country’s service members, veterans and their families by participating in Holiday Mail for Heroes, a program run by the American Red Cross and Pitney Bowes. 

At shopping malls, over Thanksgiving gatherings and simply during their own free time, Americans of all ages took the program’s mission to heart and sent in thousands of holiday greeting cards, which will be distributed across the country and around the world.

Holiday cards created by Richland One Middle College

In the Columbia Region, 34,763 cards were collected from schools, businesses, churches and community members.   In Columbia, we had over dozen volunteers spend the day at our office sorting cards.  Below is a video of Cheryl Payne, a Red Cross volunteer reading a card that was made by students at Fort Mill Elementary School in Fort Mill, SC.

Handmade cards from children often win the most smiles.  Students from across our region learned the importance of giving back, while unleashing their creative minds to produce spectacular holiday cards. 

Click here for a full story about how students at Rosewood Elementary School in Columbia, SC created cards for our troops.  

The University of South Carolina (USC) provided tremendous support to the Holiday Mail for Heroes program. Over 5,000 cards were signed during USC’s Homecoming and during the Annual Carolina/Clemson Blood Drive.

Also, USC’s Athletics Department unleashed their own creativity by holding a Holiday Mail for Heroes card-design contest. Two dozen volunteers from the department, both students and employees, spent time at the Red Cross office in Columbia to put together their handmade greetings.

The proud winners of the University of South Carolina's Athletics Department’s Holiday Mail for Heroes card design contest. From left: Paul Stoltzfun, Gerald Dixon Jr. and Raymond Harrison.

This year the Red Cross teamed up with “A Devine Night Out,” Columbia’s premier Holiday event.  At this event Red Cross volunteers had multiple tables set up where guests participated in Holiday Mail.

The success of this year’s program was made possible by each and every member of the community that participated.  Thank you for your support of our country’s military, veterans and their families!

A Special Thank You to Our Veterans!

American Red Cross disaster volunteers, Al Noft and Dan Coto, prepare for Veteran’s Day in Columbia, S.C.

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” -John Fitzgerald Kennedy

 The Red Cross is home to many quiet heroes, but this week we spotlight two Veterans of the Vietnam Era: Al Nooft and Dan Coto.  Each man has his own story, but each share a need to pay it forward.  Al says he came to the Red Cross “to return the favor for people who are not so lucky.  Dan says he sees his work at the Red Cross as an extension of his service to his country in the active Army and as a Volunteer Firefighter/EMT. 

Al Nooft says he will never forget the day that he got his letter from the Draft Board.  It was February 15, 1969.  He spent the next 30 years serving, first in the active Army, then the Army National Guard and the Army Reserves.  He was lucky.  His active duty time was spent at Fort Ord in California.  Al began as a private and went on to Officer Candidate School and retired as a Major.

Al came to the Red Cross three years ago.  He had retired and wanted to give back to the community for the good life he has enjoyed.  Soon after Al began volunteering, his wife became ill and he stepped back for a time to take care of her.  After his wife‘s death, he returned to the Red Cross, this time to have something to do to fill the time.  He volunteers as many hours as most of us spend at our full time jobs.

Al wanted to serve people across the county.  He got his wish.   He has deployed three times this year: to the North Dakota and Memphis floods and in New Jersey after Hurricane Irene. He is trained in sheltering and has served as an associate, a supervisor and as a manager.

Dan Coto was born and raised in New York City.  He entered the Army in 1966.  He was stationed in the Southern Region of Vietnam, between Saigon and Tin Ninh as a tank commander.  He served in the Tet Offensive.   After serving his country in war, he went back to New York City and got his degree from City College, going to night school to become an accountant.  Over the next years he served as a Volunteer Firefighter and EMT in New York and in Florida.  Eight months ago he came to the Red Cross in Columbia to offer his services.  He says he saw the earthquake in Haiti and the Tsunami in Japan and became excited about the mission of the Red Cross.  He was quickly trained and put to work.  He serves as a government liaison and as the regional training lead.  He also serves on the Disaster Action Team (DAT) as a DAT Captain.

Coto says, “It’s in my gut to be a volunteer.  It started with the fire department and never went away.”  He finds it very rewarding to give “the teddy bear” to a child who has just lost everything.

Dan deployed to Bingham, New York for five weeks after Hurricane Irene.  He says he loves using his brain again and enjoys the staff and other volunteers.  He is at the Red Cross office in Columbia between 35 to 40 hours each week.

The theme of service is ingrained in both these men.  Both of them say their time serving in the armed services altered their views of responsibility and leadership. 

So today, when you see a Veteran, thank him or her for their service.  You might just be talking to a Red Cross Volunteer, too!

‘Tis the Season – Holiday Mail For Heroes Begins!

Holiday Cards made by "Richland One Cares" volunteers for our Military.

The American Red Cross has kicked off  its “Holiday Mail for Heroes” program.  “Holiday Mail for Heroes” is a way for Americans of all ages to send holiday cards to members of the  military from all branches, active duty, guard and reserve, retirees and family members of those listed.

This year, the American Red Cross and partner Pitney Bowes are celebrating the fifth anniversary of Holiday Mail for Heroes, a program that has collected millions of holiday wishes from everyday Americans sharing their thanks with our service men and women.                      

  • Since 2006, the American Red Cross and Pitney Bowes have received more than 3.5 million holiday cards for members of the Armed Forces.
  • The goal of Holiday Mail for Heroes is to empower everyday Americans to share “a touch of home” with our service men and women while thanking them for their sacrifice.
  • All you need is a pen and card to share your appreciation for the sacrifices members of the U.S. Armed Forces make to protect our freedom.
  • The process is simple – you send cards to a special PO Box, Pitney Bowes scans all mail to ensure security, and Red Cross volunteers, chapters and base installations deliver the cards to active duty service members and veterans down the street, across the country and around the world.
  • Sending a “touch of home” to American men and women who serve our country is the perfect way to express your appreciation and support during the holiday season.
On Friday, October 14, the Red Cross partnered with Richland County One School District’s “Richland One Cares. ” Four volunteer employees spent an entire day making cards for our military. We would like to thank Tracy Gregg, Saundrina Wannamaker, Marjorie Lewis and Sharon Austin for donating their time and creativity to the “Holiday Mail for Heroes” program!

Want to get involved? Here’s how.

Create your card. There are three options:

  1. Design and print your own cards, branding them with your own logo
  2. Purchase cards or
  3. Purchase supplies to make cards.  Children are especially fond of making their own cards, and they are very popular with service members.

 Be sure the messages in the cards are appropriate:

  • Messages in cards should be positive:  “Thank you for your service.”  “Have a safe and happy holiday season.” “Have a happy New Year.”
  • Use the greeting: “Dear Service Member or Veteran,” not “Dear Soldier” or “Dear Sailor.”
  • Sign cards with only first names—do not include full name, address, phone number or e-mail addresses.  “Merry Christmas from the Sanderson Family,Phoenix,Arizona” is fine.
  • Do not put cards in envelopes. No envelopes or letters are accepted, only cards.
  • Please do not include inserts of any kind, including photos, glitter or attachments; these items will be removed during the reviewing process.

Once you have your cards ready to go:

  • Place completed cards in a manila envelope or box (the flat rate boxes from the USPS work well) and mail them to PitneyBowes, postmarked by Dec. 9.  Your organization pays postage to PitneyBowes. PitneyBowes will provide security screening then will send them to Red Cross chapters around the world for message screening and distribution to members of the armed forces.
  • Send an e-mail to Anna Kate Christophillis, christophillisa@usa.redcross.org and let her know approximately how many cards your group sent to PitneyBowes.

The American Red Cross relies on the generosity of everyday Americans to carry out its mission of service to the over 2 million members of the U.S. Armed Forces, the National Guard and Reserves and many of our nation’s 24 million veterans and their families.                     

  • The Red Cross supports service members and their families before, during and after deployments. It prepares families for the realities of deployment with educational courses and resources and keeps families in touch during emergencies with its global communication services.
  • Today, in the age of cell phones and email, the Red Cross Emergency Communication Network is vital to service members, their families and commanders in the field. Military commanders know in times of family crisis, they can rely on the Red Cross to verify and quickly relay important and confidential information to military personnel.
  • The Red Cross also provides comfort and support to wounded warriors, veterans and their families in military and veterans’ hospitals stateside and abroad.
  • Each day, we assist an average of 476 families through the Red Cross Emergency Communications Network, passing on messages about births, illnesses or death in the family. When a Red Cross message arrives, the service member knows the information is accurate and the commander can make an informed decision about whether or not to grant leave.
  • Supporting Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces work is simple and we encourage you to click, call or text to make a financial donation. Visit http://www.redcross.org, call 1-800-REDCROSS to make a financial donation.

For more information,   www.redcross.org/holidaymail or contact Anna Kate Christophillis, Regional Communications Officer at christophillisa@usa.redcross.org or at  (803) 540-1244.

First Lady Meets with Regional Board Chair


Rachel Hodges, Chair of the Board of Directors for the American Red Cross, Columbia Region, visited with First Lady Michelle Obama during her visit on January 28, 2011 to Fort Jackson Military Base. The Red Cross provides ongoing communication between those in the U.S. Armed Forces and their families.  

  • In 2010, the Columbia Region helped 4,179 military families send emergency messages, receive financial assistance, and get counseling and referrals.
  • In addition, 139,919 military families were briefed in, “Get to Know Us Before You Need Us,” a program that educates families facing deployment on how to access Red Cross services anywhere in the world.