SELLERSBURG, Ind. (AP) — Sellersburg resident Joyce Hall needs a few good cards.
Well, more than that, perhaps, if she hopes to keep up the pace she has been maintaining these past three years.
Since 2011, Hall has converted more than 8,000 used greeting cards into quaint boxes filled with candy. Most of the repurposed boxes go to area nursing homes around the holidays.
Each resident receives his or her own present, normally delivered by the recreational director. Due to her health, the 75-year-old is no longer able to hand them out personally.
"The older people are the forgotten people. They are so lonely," she told the News and Tribune (http://bit.ly/1iJBHmS). "I don't get to see the people who get them, but the staff in the nursing homes are so nice. They are very grateful and thankful they're getting something individual."
Wanting to give back to the community, Hall got the idea from a meeting of the Clark County Homemaker's Club. Always creative, she planned to make the craft herself. Plus, it would help keep her busy at home, something she enjoyed. But how would she find so many used greeting cards?
Actually, this very paper proved to be the answer.
To get started, Hall placed a free ad in the New Albany Tribune asking for old cards that she could recycle. All names would and still continue to be whited out of any donations. Listing her phone number, she anticipated a couple of calls.
What happened next astonished her. More than 34 people phoned Hall's home after seeing the ad. In all, the community sent 5,000 cards to be used for her project. It would seem people grow a little attached to their old cards. A couple of the submissions even dated back to the 1920s.
After three years, she's only now beginning to run low.
"I hate to get rid of pretty Christmas cards," Hall said. "And I think that everybody just puts them back and they just brew in their house. When they saw somebody was going to recycle them, they just said, 'Well I need to get rid of them anyway.'"
While a few Easter, birthday and all occasion cards do get donated, most of those given have been Christmas cards. Filled with snow-covered landscapes, these greetings came in quite handy this past May when Hall's boxes found their way halfway across the globe to a very different destination — a small village in the heart of Africa.
Louisville resident Tracey Clayton knew she wanted to go on a mission trip, she just didn't know exactly where. Through the Internet, she found her calling on an 18-day trip to the African nation of South Sudan.
As a united Sudan, a bitter civil war ravaged the country for more than 20 years. Even after the South gained independence in 2011, violence and armed conflict still exist. Tensions flared between factions only weeks before Clayton embarked on her 24-hour flight followed by a 7-hour drive to the South Sudanese town of Maridi.
Stacked like nesting dolls in her backpack, Hall's friend Clayton also transported around 40 of the boxes to be given out to local children. It had always been Hall's dream to go on a mission trip to a faraway land. But her body will no longer allow her to achieve that goal.
"That would be my big dream, but I've waited too long now. But I have someone doing it," Hall said.
Instead, she cut and folded the cards, ultimately transforming them into trinkets to make the children's days just a little bit brighter.
"You do it just so they know someone is remembering them and taking the time to make one little thing that goes in their hands," Hall said. "I just wish I could send them all over there because I know they've never seen anything like them."
While helping a local pastor plant a new church in the region and strengthen two others, Clayton passed out the boxes to the children who followed her around the town. Considering most hadn't ever experienced snow, they particularly liked the winter scenes.
"The boxes were more valuable than the candy," Clayton said.
Although many in the area live in poverty, Clayton sees the end of hostilities as a rebirth for long war-torn country. The pastor she traveled there with wanted Americans to know that his country has the resources to prosper, they just need knowledge and training.
"Right now this is an opportunity. It's an opportunity for this country to establish itself. Who are they going to be?" she said.
In the future, she hopes to return to the town and work to provide more opportunities for South Sudanese women.
"If you can teach a woman to raise a child a little differently, to think a little different, in just a couple of generations you can change a country," she said. "And if you raise that child in love and loving others, then things change."
Hall also continues to make boxes from used cards for both nursing home residents and the children of Sudan. For those looking to donate, both the New Albany and Jeffersonville offices of the News and Tribune will be accepting old greeting cards on her behalf. For questions on Hall's project, please phone her at 812-246-5315.
Information from: News and Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind., http://www.newsandtribune.com