Take one theatre, two elementary schools, one Sunday School class, the local Red Cross, one downtown special event, and what do you have?
How about a very successful "Holiday for the Soldiers Card Project," that’s what.
What started out as a museum activity for children making greeting cards for soldiers deployed in Iraq quickly blossomed into a community effort that extended to Hampton and Virginia Beach and involved over five hundred people.
The activity began November 9th when the Memorial educator set up an art station in the theatre stocked with heavy paper, markers, glue, and envelopes. Through Mary Jo Rothgery, Executive Director of the South-east Chapter of the American Red Cross, the Memorial was able to obtain the addresses of three cargo transfer platoons from Ft. Eustis, Virginia, currently serving in Iraq.
Visitors were invited to create cards that would be forwarded to the soldiers of the platoons. With Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving, and the annual downtown event "Holiday Along the Cannonball Trail" all scheduled within three weeks, more than 100 visitors took the opportunity to make and decorate seasonal cards.
Hampton’s Bassette Elementary School teacher Connie Johnson, a regular partner with the Memorial’s educational outreach programs, heard about the program and asked if her entire school could participate.
More than 400 students were given time and art instruction on how to design and make a greeting card. Meanwhile, Colleen Zobel, wife of the museum’s archivist, asked her Sunday School class if they would like to participate and more cards were collected.
Through Colleen, Laura Bennett, a third grade teacher at Creeds Elementary School in Virginia Beach had her class contribute with about 30 additional cards, all brightly decorated.
The cards were collected by the educator and bundled for forwarding to the platoons.
It is hoped that every soldier receives several of these thoughtful seasonal reminders.
John McLaughlin, museum educator, has already taken steps to link the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, the Children’s Museum of Virginia, and the Air-Space Museum in Hampton next year in an effort to make cards for all branches of the military.