VACAVILLE — Seven-month-old Jackson Lewis got to make his first Valentine’s Day card to the troops Wednesday with the help of his father, Jason Lewis.
“I think we will do handprints,” Jason Lewis said.
Jackson Lewis was the youngest of more than a dozen neighbors and family members who gathered at Tom and Shirley Murray’s south Vacaville home for a Murray tradition of gathering together to make more than 100 handmade cards, thanking troops and veterans for their service.
“I read about it one day in the paper and I said, ‘I can do that,’ ” Shirley Murray said of how the tradition got started.
She then gathered crafting materials from places such as Michaels and the 99-Cents Only Stores, and then invited family and neighborhood children over for an afternoon of card-making. Each year more than a dozen people gather for food and card-making.
“It has been a lot of fun and the kids get into it,” said Tom Murray, who is also an Army veteran. “It is giving back. It is giving back to the troops.”
The card-making is part of this year’s sixth annual Aeromedical Staging Flight Wounded Ward Joint Drive, which is hosted by the Ladies Auxiliary of VFW Post 7244 and American Legion Auxiliary Unit 165.
That is who the Murrays and their friends will send their cards to once they are done.
Middle school student Kiera Cullen is one of the neighborhood children who came over to make Valentine’s cards at the Murrays’ home.
“I am really enjoying this. I know I would feel great if I was a soldier and I got a handmade card from someone,” Cullen said while picking out what materials she would use for her cards. “I plan on making as many as I can.”
Kelli Germeraad, who helps organize the drive, said she is “always moved” by the creative thinking and participation the community when it comes to reaching out to the nation’s veterans.
“There is nothing more powerful and moving than a homemade Valentine that says thank you,” Germeraad said. “The knowledge that someone would take their time to remember those that serve is a wonderful message of appreciation and love.”
The drive runs through Feb. 15 and reaches out to local veterans organizations, civic and business groups, schools, youth groups and residents for help to collect cards, personal care items, snacks, phone cards and other items for wounded or sick service members and veterans at David Grant Medical Center.
During the past year, the group visited about 200 patients at David Grant and supported the needs of 437 returning wounded service members who traveled through the Air Force hospital.
The group also supports the Travis Fisher House, the Veterans Affairs clinic next to David Grant, and the Concord/Sacramento Vets Center.
This year, the group particularly needs men’s flip-flops, sizes 9-13, as well as travel or small-sized toiletries such as Chap Stick, men’s shower gel, toothbrushes, toothpaste and men’s deodorant.
Donation drop-off locations are Tax Offices of Sherri Scarrott, 1530 Webster St., Fairfield, 426-9472; Jackson Medical Supply, 506 Main St., Vacaville, 446-7014; and J&W Lawn and Garden Center, 801 Davis St., Vacaville, 446-7325.
Monetary donations are also appreciated. Checks should be made out to the VFW Auxiliary 7244 and mailed to 549 Merchant St., Vacaville, CA 95688. For more information about the drive, contact Dee Conroy at 448-6603 or email@example.com, or Lynn Jewell at 446-3582 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.