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Sheila Dempsey wants to make sure that the power of the pen gives some comfort to U.S. troops overseas.

The Waldorf resident is one of the operators of a local chapter of Operation Write Home, a nonprofit organization that dedicates itself to not simply sending words of encouragement to deployed military folks, but to creating cards for them to send back to loved ones at home.

The group held its first official card-making event Saturday at the Holiday Inn Express in La Plata. Although there was a relatively low turnout compared to what Dempsey had expected, she was nonetheless pleased with the work done.

“Everyone asked questions and was really interested in what we were doing,” Dempsey said. “One lady ... asked me if it would help if she could do cards at home, so I sent a few bundles back with her.”

Cards can either be crafted by hand, or can simply contain brief messages to be sent to those overseas. Dempsey, an avid crafter, likes to do the cards by hand.

“What they count on as homemade cards go is the quality of them and not the quantity,” Dempsey said. “The amount donated varies on how much time I’ve got on my hands. It’s such a worthwhile cause and I’m so happy to be a part of it.”

Dempsey and her partner Murfi Jackson have been involved with Operation Write Home for the last two years. Before the Saturday event, Dempsey said that most of their card-sending operation was done through the animal information events she does at Petco stores in the region.

“I’ve found that kids really like it,” Dempsey said. “One time a mother left her daughter with me and she decorated cards while her mom went around and shopped, and then came back to get her, and the daughter said she had such a great time doing it.”

Once the cards are completed, Dempsey said they go through a screening process at one of three national shipping locations before being sent out overseas. One of the standards that struck her the most when first beginning the card-making and sending process was that none of the cards could have glitter on them.

“I was so surprised when I found out that was a standard,” Dempsey said. “Apparently it can reflect off at night and be seen, and make them visible to snipers and prone to attack. So now I have all these glittery cards and no idea what to do with them.”

The first two people to show up for the card-making operation Saturday were Rob Villaviray and Michael Fitch, both residents of St. Mary’s County. The two men, both former military, said they could relate firsthand to the cause Dempsey and Jackson were working to promote.

“We’re both friends of Sheila’s and we found out about this when she posted about it on Facebook,” Villaviray said as he and Fitch wrote messages on greeting cards. “I liked the idea of it and I said, ‘Oh, that sounds neat.’ We were both in the Navy, and we both know what it’s like to be out there and how nice it is to get word from home. It’s just good to get reassurance.”

Currently, Dempsey said she does not know when the group will host another card-making event.

lrenner@somdnews.com

To learn more

Specific shipping information, along with card guidelines and other useful tips for those who wish to get involved can be found at operationwritehome.org.