Laura Landerman-Garber has transformed a family tradition into a project that will ship 100,000 cards this holiday season.
Landerman-Garber, a Hollis, New Hampshire, clinical psychologist, calls the Holiday Cards for Our Military Challenge (HCOMC) a “passion project.” The goal is simple: to bless homesick soldiers overseas with a bit of the season’s cheer.
“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,” she told CNN.
And while the HCOMC has expanded its reach to six digits, it began much smaller. Sixteen years ago, Landerman-Garber held Thanksgiving turkey for ransom: No family member could partake of the festivities until they had redeemed their “ticket to turkey” by writing cards to members of the U.S. armed forces overseas.
When her own daughter was deployed to the Navy’s USS Theodore Roosevelt, Landerman-Garber upped the ante — every soldier on the ship would received a card. To reach the 17,000 cards that made their way aboard, she enlisted the aid of churches, synagogues, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and politicians.
In 2018, the military’s unofficial grandmother pledged 5,000 cards to each branch of the military. It was not difficult; participants ended up helping to send over 50,000 cards last December. This year’s goal was 50,000, but they have far surpassed that with 100,000 cards ready to ship.
Landerman-Garber retains the faith in humanity that sparked her project: “In spite of all of the divisiveness in the country right now, in spite of all the infighting and between fighting — I know this sounds like a Hallmark card — I really do believe they have in their hearts to do the right things, to be kind,” she said.