While many of us are still packing up the decorations from Halloween and prepping for Thanksgiving, Ashley Hyde-Fuhr has been thinking about Christmas for months. Ashley is the founder of The Art of Encouragement, an organization that many of you may be familiar with. An Altus High School graduate and Miss Altus 2008, Ashley founded the organization back in 2008 to send handwritten Christmas cards to veterans across the country.
“There are so many wonderful organizations out there that cater to our heroes overseas, but they are so often forgotten once they come home,” Ashley said. For their 5th anniversary of sending Christmas cards, The Art of Encouragement is hoping to send 12,000 handwritten cards to VA hospitals and nursing homes across the country.
When we interviewed her back in 2009, Ashley said, “After talking to one of the hospital administrators about what I was doing, he told me that this may be the only gift that some of the veterans receive this Christmas. It just broke my heart. I suddenly wished I had thousands more cards because I know there are thousands of other veterans out there that we were unable to reach.” Ashley quickly got her wish and has sent 10,000 cards for the past two years, but she says that feeling hasn’t changed. “Until I can reach every hospitalized veteran in this country, I will keep striving to send more.”
There are 1,700 veterans in Oklahoma facilities alone, holding one of the largest veteran populations in the country. Ashley has sent to over 50 different facilities across the nation, and has no doubt that The Art of Encouragement will continue to grow.
“We went from 1,000 cards to 10,000 cards in a single year. That’s definitely not my doing. It shows not only an immense need, but that we have been blessed by those who are willing to volunteer their time and money.” According to Ashley, it’s all comes down to spreading the word about what TAOE is all about, the difference one person can make, and letting others know how easy it is for them to get involved.
“I’m not asking everyone to buy multiple boxes of cards and sign them all. If you feel led to do that, we would greatly appreciate it, but every single card counts and can change a life. If you have 3 cards at the bottom of the box, after you send to friends and family, take 5 minutes to write a sincere thank you to a veteran and send them our way. Your three cards can make all the difference.”
So far, Ashley has collected 6,500 cards to send this Christmas and they are continuing to roll in. “We’re half way there! I’m nervous about whether or not we will reach the 12,000, but I’m confident that we can do it. It always comes together at the last moment.” If you’d like to sign cards to add to this year’s count, you have until Nov. 16. The Enchanted Door has graciously offered to be a drop off location where you can take your cards from now until the 16th.
Ashley will also head to DFW Airport, for the third year, to pass out cards to men and women traveling in uniform. “We’re not sure if they’re headed home or headed out, but the look of surprise when you shake their hand, hand them a Christmas card, and thank them for their service is unforgettable. They should be thanked so often that it doesn’t surprise them.”
Ashley wanted send out a sincere thank you to the Altus community, “The idea for The Art of Encouragement started here, and even though it’s grown to reach the corners of our nation, this town has continued to be supportive. We will never forget where we came from, and we appreciate everyone’s willingness to embrace and support what we do every single year. If you aren’t able to give this year, please join us in prayer. God has blessed this ministry for 5 years, and we hope He will continue to allow us to reach our nation’s heroes. It’s important that we never forget that these men and women have given us the opportunity to celebrate the holiday season in freedom.”
If you would like to learn more about The Art of Encouragement, get instructions about what is required when you write in the cards, or get in touch with Ashley, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org You can also find The Art of Encouragement of Facebook.