For the majority of the year, Laura Landerman-Garber is a loving grandmother from New Hampshire. However, over the past few years, she has developed her “passion project” of sending holiday cards to troops from a small holiday tradition into a large nonprofit organization. Here’s her amazing story…
A “Passion Project” Turned Giant Organization
Meet Laura Landerman-Garber, a grandmother from Hollis, New Hampshire. For the majority of the year, she works as a clinical psychologist. However, in her spare time and especially around the holidays, Landerman-Garber runs her own nonprofit organization, The Military Card Challenge.
It all started as a small family tradition around the holidays: sending cards to military service members overseas. Now, its a giant organization that involves thousands of people and ships over 5,000 holiday cards to US forces stationed all over the world, every year. When asked why she carries on her project, Landerman-Garber simply says, “I’m a grandmother,” her answer to many things!
Sending 5,000 Holiday Cards To Troops All Over The Globe
The Military Card Challenge started 16 years ago, on Thanksgiving. Landerman-Garber declared that the entire family would each write one card before dinner. She called it the “Ticket to Turkey.” The family all loved the idea, and it quickly became a yearly tradition. “The thought of someone being away at a time when in our culture, in American culture particularly, the holidays are all about gathering together… for me, I wanted to be able to reach out and just maybe give a little bit of a bridge, so that person who is far away feels a little tiny bit closer to home,” the grandmother told CNN.
The tradition stayed a family one. Well, until two years ago, when a friend of Landerman-Garber’s daughter joined the navy, aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt. The grandmother first thought she would send cards to everyone on the “boat.” That’s when she found out the “boat” was an aircraft carrier with over 5,000 troops on it. “[Still,] I’m a grandmother now. We can do this, no problem,” Landerman-Garber decided.
Landerman-Garber now found herself on a mission: these 5,000 cards would not write themselves! So, the grandmother called it a “challenge!” She contacted every church, synagogue, Girl and Boy Sount troop, and politician she could find to help out. The turnout was much more than Landerman-Garber could have ever imagined. In total, she received nearly 17,000 holiday cards for the troops on the aircraft carrier!
“They Have It In Their Hearts To Do The Right Thing”
After Landerman-Garber managed to amass 17,000 cards, things really started to snowball. Afterward, someone asked if she could create cards for troops in each branch of the military. So, the grandmother founded her non-profit to enlist even more help for last year! In 2017, Landerman-Garber wanted to send 5,000 cards to each branch. Instead, the organization received 50,000 cards!
This year, Landerman-Garber aimed for 25,000 cards – but people quadrupled it: 100,000 in total! Some 2020 presidential candidates even pitched in, like Mark Sanford, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders. “I just love the idea that whether you’re a presidential candidate – and those people have a lot of experience in our country – or you’re a 3-year-old preschooler, you can send holiday cheer to someone that’s away from home and let them know you appreciate what they’re doing,” the grandmother said.
On the cards, the organization encourages everyone to write a little about themselves, send positive messages, and add as many drawings as they want. One of the funniest, sweetest cards came from Tori. It said, “Dear Mike, My name is Tori, and my best friend’s name is Victoria. She loves you, and I’m just telling you that.” Others are so touching – “Dear sailor, I’m very lonely. Are you lonely? But when somebody loves me, I feel better. How about if I love you?”
“In spite of all of the divisiveness in the country right now, in spite of all the infighting and between fighting… I really do believe [we] have in their hearts to do the right things, to be kind,” Landerman-Garber summed up.