Robin McCauley isn’t related to a deployed member of the U.S. military. But when she’s home spending time with her loved ones over the holidays, she often thinks of the men and women who aren’t at home because they’re serving our country overseas.

“I just wanted to thank them for their service and let them know people in the states are thinking of them,” McCauley said. “They deserve to have a merry Christmas, too.”

In 2009, McCauley started a program she calls Project Love Cards, which collects and sends hand-stuffed packages filled with signed Christmas cards and treats to troops overseas.

She collects the names and addresses of deployed service members from her friends and community and asks for donations of signed Christmas cards — either store bought or homemade — and candy and treats to help fill the packages. With the help of her family members, McCauley then hand-stuffs and sends them out.

In the first year, she sent out 500 packages and collected 2,339 Christmas cards to put inside. Last year, the third year for Project Love Cards, McCauley sent out 1,485 packages stuffed with 5,324 Christmas cards.

“Originally, I was just going to send over Christmas cards,” McCauley said, “but then the candy was added in, then the Johnson’s Popcorn was added in, and it just kept growing and growing and growing, and now we have countless cards and hundreds of pounds of candy.”

She said she has received many thank-you emails back from the Armed Forces members saying they’ve received the packages and are grateful for the love.

A line from an email McCauley has saved reads, “It’s not always easy for us to be away from home, but knowing you and many others are back there thinking about us makes it all worth it.” From another, “It gets hard, especially during the holidays, and receiving a little bit of love from back home means a lot to us.”

She was awarded a certificate of achievement from the Department of the Army in 2009 and was mailed an American flag that had flown over the 328th Engineer Company Headquarters at Contingency Operating Base Adder in Tallil, Iraq, in 2010 in honor of Project Love Cards.

McCauley said her goal this year is to collect at least 1,800 signed Christmas cards. So far this year, Upper Township Elementary School has committed its students to making a few hundred handmade cards and Johnson’s Popcorn of Ocean City has donated 750 bags of popcorn to add to the packages.

The more cards and candy donations she receives, the merrier, McCauley said.

“A simple thank you really does mean a lot of them,” she said.

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