'Magic' of Christmas cards shared with thousands of homeless Calgarians

Barb Marshall wants your help to make sure every homeless person in Calgary has a bit of holiday cheer.

Barb Marshall of MakeItMerry seeks handwritten holiday wishes to distribute this season

People who want to take part can make their own card or use a store-bought one. The only requirements are that the message is positive, the card is in an unsealed envelope and you sign your first name. (Make it Merry)

Barb Marshall wants every homeless person in Calgary to have a bit of Christmas cheer.

She's collecting, now for the third year, handwritten holiday cards, and likely thousands of them.

Last year, she received nearly 4,000 — she thinks. She stopped counting after 3,000, the number requested by local homeless service groups.

The idea, she says, touches people, and they respond en masse. The cards are equally welcomed by the recipients, too.

"It's a simple thing but the magic of it is, it has huge impact," Marshall said.

Barb Marshall says people sent in thousands of cards last year. The group also mails out cards for people who are homeless who want to send a card to a family member or friend. (Make It Merry)

Marshall got the idea in 2015 after sending out her batch of annual Christmas cards.

She had attended a function for the Calgary Drop-In Centre and wondered when was the last time the residents had received a card. The next year, she started the collection and founded MakeItMerry, the group that organizes the effort.

"Because I know how much I love that, and so it sort of went from there," she said.

She's received cards from as far away as China, and school kids in Alberta send in handmade ones as a class.

Any surplus cards are taken to shelters in other cities or saved for the next year, Marshall said.

MakeItMerry organizer Barb Marshall says the cards from kids are especially popular. (Make It Merry)

If you'd like to send a card but you're not sure what to write, Marshall has a few tips:

  • Start your card with a general but personal greeting, such as "dear friend," or "hi, how are you."
  • Say something about yourself, like if you're a teacher or have three kids.
  • If a kid is making a card, consider telling a joke or drawing a picture.
  • Keep the message friendly with thoughts like you hope they have a nice Christmas, that they stay warm and have a great New Year.
  • Sign the card by hand with your first name.

The group also asks that you send the card in an unsealed envelope as all cards are read by volunteers to ensure the messages are positive.

"There's this invisibility factor with those that are homeless, so the purpose of the card is to make someone who deserves some merry at Christmas to feel loved and cared for," Marshall said.

Some teachers around Alberta have their students make cards, like these ones, for the project. (Make It Merry)

On Sunday, the group is holding a card-making session for people who are homeless who want to write or make a card for their family and friends. The organization, which is a non-profit, will mail those cards for them.

The event, which will be held at Feed the Hungry in Mission, will provide stamps, cards and pens. A laptop will be available to look up postal codes.

The group is not a charity, so it can't provide receipts, but it does accept blank cards, craft supplies and stamps. Another session will be held in December at the Drop-In Centre, Marshall said.

Completed cards can be mailed to: MakeItMerry, P.O. Box 96107, West Springs, Calgary, AB, T3H 0L3, or dropped off at participating ATB locations around Calgary.

With files from Angela Knight and the Calgary Eyeopener.


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