OPERATIONS CENTER
Shirley Finch relaxes in her "card command center," her living room in Madison.

Redstone Arsenal, Ala. -- Shirley Finch was just a newlywed when husband Tom was drafted and sent to fight in the Vietnam War. Back then, there were no cell phones, no e-mails, and no Skype. Correspondence between the two was sparse, to say the least.

"I never got a card; I never got anything," she said. "How could I' He was in a jungle."

Finch long remembered the loneliness and isolation she often felt as a young wife waiting for her Soldier to come home. So when the Chrysler retiree went to work part time as a Hallmark vendor in 2007, she knew just what to do with the leftover cards she received each month as a reward for her good work. She sent them to Soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, so they could send them back home to waiting spouses and other family members.

"I didn't want those families to go without like I did," said Finch, who sent a variety pack of cards to every deployed servicemember for whom she could obtain an address.

But her plans hit a snafu earlier this year when Hallmark started recycling their leftover cards instead of giving them away. Finch began purchasing as many cards as possible, adding that expense to the $12 in postage she was already paying to ship each package overseas. Both she and Tom work part time. But on a retiree's income, with two adopted grandchildren to raise, things looked bleak as her supply couldn't keep up with the demand for her cards.

"I would have kept doing it, but not as much," she said.

However, thanks to recent publicity, she has begun receiving cards, and money to buy cards, from donors all across the Tennessee Valley. To date, she has received more than 500 cards, and almost $1,000 in donations. In addition, Discovery Middle School is holding a card drive for her.

"I am shocked. I can't believe that people want to help like this. I never knew that so many good people were out there," she said.

In return for her kindness, Finch has received numerous thank-you notes, calls and letters from people in the community, and a few notes of thanks from the Soldiers themselves, to which she tries to respond personally. She is quick to point out that she doesn't really expect the Soldiers to thank her. She said she preferred that they spend that time talking to their families -- or better yet -- sending them one of her cards.

"One young man sent word to 'Please tell that lady thank you. I was able to send my kids a birthday card this year,'" Finch said. "That is what makes me happy. I know it's working. I know it's helping our Soldiers."

Editor's note: Birthday, "thinking of you" and Christmas cards are the most popular cards that Finch sends to the Soldiers. If you know of a Soldier who needs cards, or if you want to donate to Finch's project, you can contact her at P.O. Box 1278, Madison, AL 35758.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16