By Melanie Patterson
North Jefferson News
NORTH JEFFERSON — It’s only October, but it is not too early to get into the holiday spirit, especially for men and women who are serving overseas.
For the third year, Tonya O’Tinger of Fultondale is organizing a local Operation Christmas Cards project, which is part of a nationwide effort to send a card to each deployed soldier during the holidays.
“We try to put a card into the hands of all deployed troops. They’re away from family. The holidays are a tough time for them,” said O’Tinger.
A large red box is sitting at Fultondale City Hall for people to drop off their cards. They do not have to be sealed, and there is no postage needed; the cards will be shipped overseas in bulk.
O’Tinger said the cards can be bought or hand-made. She said some people include family photos and notes of thanks or encouragement.
People can also include their names and addresses if they wish, in case the service member wants to write back.
Residents dropped off more than 1,700 cards in Fultondale for each of the past two years. Nationwide, the project collected and sent 140,000 cards last year.
O’Tinger said the project was started in 2009 by a woman in Massachusetts.
O’Tinger saw it on Facebook and wanted to get involved because she has seen first-hand what it is like for troops overseas. She was an “army brat” for much of her childhood while her father was stationed in Germany.
“We don’t tell them thank you enough,” she said. “They spend years of their lives away from their families doing what they do so we can sit at home and enjoy the freedoms we have.”
O’Tinger always fills out several cards to send to troops. She writes messages such as: “Thank you to all service men and women. You give of yourself so freely to protect our way of life, and to defend freedom. You will never know how grateful we are to each and every one of you.”
O’Tinger also is involved with Hunters Helping Soldiers, and she sends care packages and Valentine cards to troops.
She said cards from Operation Christmas Cards is the only mail that some troops will receive for the holidays.
The deadline to drop off cards is Nov. 20 so they will reach deployed troops by Christmas.
Fultondale City Hall is located at 1210 Walker Chapel Road.