LUTZ — Each holiday season, as Lutz resident Gloria Dale sends greeting cards to friends and family members, she always takes time to send a few additional greetings to military personnel stationed overseas — about 2,200 handwritten cards, to be specific.
"I use my own money to purchase the cards, and I personally sign each one," said Dale, a resident at the Winter Quarters Pasco RV Resort and a onetime honorary deputy mayor of Land O'Lakes. "Everything I do comes from my heart."
Friends and neighbors gathered recently at the Winter Quarters clubhouse to honor Dale, presenting her with a plaque secured through the Pasco-based Support the Troops organization, which has accepted the 81-year-old's card donations for the past 10 years, sending them as a part of care packages to troops overseas.
"A lot of cards have passed through these hands," said Dale.
The plaque, along with an American flag flown over Afghanistan, thanks Dale for her ongoing service to troops.
"This is Support the Troops' highest award," said Joe Fornino Jr., a representative of the organization in Wesley Chapel. "We needed to do something to say thank you for this marvelous feat."
Dale, whose father and late husband both served in the military, sees every greeting card as a thank-you note to the troops.
"The troops support us and take care of us," she said. "We need to support them."
Also to this end, Dale joins the GFWC Woman's Club Lutz-Land O'Lakes in making craft and candy gifts year-round for residents at the Baldomero Lopez State Veterans' Nursing Home in Land O'Lakes and for patients at veterans' hospitals. And she also serves the club by keeping attendance at group meetings.
"If you don't come and say good morning to Gloria, she won't check you in," said club president Cathy Mathes. "She also has experience working as a CARES volunteer, calling and checking on shut-ins, and has sent get-well cards as part of our Sunshine Club."
"We always know she's going to be there," said Helen Fornino, assistant treasurer of the woman's club.
And Dale is still active as a co-chairwoman for the club's Relay for Life team, which benefits the American Cancer Society. She makes monetary donations to the teams and creates crafts for team fundraisers, winning two Volunteer of the Year honors.
"I am a cancer survivor, and I lost a son to the disease," she said. "If we could find a cure for cancer, I'd be happy."
Another thing that makes Gloria Dale happy, she says, is helping others.
"When I help somebody, it helps me more than it helps them," she said. "I like what I do."