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Texas store debuts Christmas cards for troops project

During the holiday season, local groups and organizations support the military with gifts, cookies and care packages. This year, Kerrville's Hallmark Gold Crown store is pioneering a program of its own -- Christmas cards for the troops.

"It's to let them know someone's thinking of them," manager Julie Spiley said. "There's guys who might not get any-

thing (for Christmas) ... we'll be their family, their friends."

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The Hallmark Gold Crown store, 317 Sidney Baker St., is hosting its first Operation: We Love You project, asking locals to submit Christmas cards that will be sent to troops during the holidays. The cards can be purchased and personalized in the store or can be brought in from outside, including homemade cards.

According to employee Diana Aikman, who's helping Spiley with the project, it's important for service members to feel acknowledged during this time of year, and a card saying Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays often can be very special for them.

"This is going to mean so much to them," Aikman said. "It's just to let them know we care back home."

Spiley first got the idea several months ago after attending a Hallmark Gold Crown conference for corporate managers. She said someone set up a booth asking for cards for a few nonprofit organizations as well as the military, and it gave her an idea.

"I thought, 'Why don't we have this in the store?'" Spiley said.

She said she spent months working with the Hallmark corporate office to get approval for the project and was only given the go-ahead recently.

The store started the project Wednesday and already had collected about 200 cards by Thursday afternoon.

According to Spiley, the goal is to reach 10,000 cards by the week before Christmas, and the first shipment will be sent out tonight.

Spiley said if the project is successful, other Hallmark Gold Crown stores might pick it up next year. Customer Jan Stevenson, who bought a Christmas card while doing some shopping Thursday, said once she found out about the project, she couldn't say no.

"They do so much, sending a card doesn't seem a hard thing to do," Stevenson said.

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