EDMOND, OKLAHOMA -- She sends out a lot more than she gets. Not a single one of the packages under Ashley Hyde-Fuhr's Christmas tree are for her and yet she's still filled with Christmas spirit.
"I can pop in a good Christmas movie any time of the year and start signing Christmas cards," she says.
She doesn't 'humbug' about the 10-thousand cards she'll send by early December. "They just start to pile up in my garage," she chuckles.
Five years ago Ashley's Air Force dad came home with a story about some of the patients he met at a nursing home for Veterans.
Most of them didn't get much in the way of mail even at Christmas time. Ashley describes her feelings at the time. "And it just broke my heart to hear that Christmas or Thanksgiving, to them, was just another day. It wasn't anything to get excited about."
So she acted on her own initiative. Ashley got the addresses of a few veterans hospitals and nursing homes.
She managed 400 cards that first Christmas. The next Christmas she tried again. "The second year we sent a thousand cards and for our third, fourth, and this being our fifth Christmas we've sent 10-thousand cards."
Ashley's program got a name somewhere along the line. It's called 'The Art of Encouragement'.
Every card contains a small, handwritten message of thanks. Not all of them are in Ashley's handwriting either.
"There is not a day that goes by that I don't thank God for living in America," states one letter to veterans. "I've probably done about 30 of these," says one of many letter writing volunteers.
Throughout the year Hyde-Fuhr brings boxes of blank cards to schools like UCO in Edmond, to civic events and meetings so other people can write their own messages.
"They sign cards all year long," she says. "Then in October and November they start sending them to us."
The first week of December is her cut off. The boxes of cards have to be mailed by then to get to their destinations on time.
The messages that trickle back keep Ashley going. "It's been spectacular," she says. "We get a lot of thank you letters back from the facilities we serve. They tell us different stories of some of the veterans. They're very proud."
So it really is fine with Ashley that her ratio of cards sent to cards received is so lopsided. 'Better to Give that Receive' works in life and on paper too.
The effort to write and sign thousands of cards is a year long project. If you'd like more information or want to help out for 2013 here is some information.