Valentines for Soldiers sprang from humble roots, started by a small group of friends at Anvil in 2010. The group noted that our troops abroad get lots of attention over the busy holiday season, but that sentiment trails off in the new year.
Wouldn’t it be nice, they surmised, if we could send some homemade care packages to let them know that we still appreciate what they do?
And the event was born.
After two years of packing Anvil to capacity and beyond, the event moved to Saint Arnold in 2012, filling the venue with more than 350 people and raising more than $4,000. Attendees crafted clever valentines, readied care packages, participated in a volunteer bake sale, indulged in two onsite food trucks and enjoyed the flowing Saint Arnold beer.
"It's a bit like being back in elementary school — making Valentines for all of your classmates — only much, much better . . . because there’s beer!”
“For us it was a no-brainer to host the event," says Lennie Ambrose of Saint Arnold. "We've tried to be active with veterans and military groups over the years, and when a brewery friend asked if we were interested in this, we said yes immediately.
"It’s funny that a German-style beer hall with long wooden tables is also the perfect place to do arts and crafts. Worlds colliding!”
This year, the fourth annual Valentines for Soldiers promises to be bigger and more crafty than ever. The event takes place on Monday from 6 to 9 p.m., again at the Saint Arnold brewery on Lyons Ave. Ten bucks gets you in the door, and that includes a brewery tour, beer tokens and a $5 donation to the Wounded Warriors Project.
All proceeds from the night go either to active soldiers or to veteran causes. To drill down further, some of the money raised covers the substantial cost of shipping care packages abroad, while the rest goes to worthy organizations like the Wounded Warrior Project and Team Red, White & Blue.
Local baker Jody Stevens has attended two of the past events, and this year serves on the planning committee. Why?
“I'm a vet who served during conflict, so I know firsthand what it’s like to receive something when you're so far from home," Stevens says. "Even the smallest sentiment can lift spirits for days! It’s so nice that our community comes together, young and old, to support such a cause.”
There are plenty of ways to join the fun — before, during, and after the event. Submit an APO/FPO address, bake something for the on-site sale, bring suggested items to include in the care packages, or just show up on Monday and make a valentine or two. Valentine crafting supplies (you know, like paper, markers, pens, stickers, doilies and such) are much needed, as well.
Organizer Nishta Mehra says, “When you read the notes of thanks I received after last year’s event, it’s amazing to see how much of an impact a simple care package can have. So many soldiers shared that it meant so much to know that they were not forgotten, that we are aware and appreciative of what they do.”
Repeat attender Christina Hicks chimes in with, “It's a bit like being back in elementary school — making Valentines for all of your classmates — only much, much better . . . because there’s beer!”
After all, a pint can work wonders on your creativity. A night of light-hearted philanthropy can do the same for your soul.