Dozens of people lined up before the doors opened at Center Place on Saturday for a chance to make a difference.
For some, participating in Holiday Cards for the Troops, an annual event aimed at spreading cheer between deployed military and their families, is part of their contribution to the community. For other guests, the event touches deeper.
Kelle March knows all too well the feeling of being worried and scared for deployed soldiers. March's two sons went into the military shortly after graduating high school because they wanted to serve their country.
Although March's older son completed two deployments and is back in the United States, the holiday season remains very difficult. Her younger son, Dominic Viccari, 25, is currently deployed to an undisclosed location and won't be back until May.
"We celebrate the holidays more unconventional," March said. "Whenever all the family is together is our holiday."
March was one of 210 volunteers who participated in the 4th annual Holiday Cards for the Troops event. She says she wanted to help spread love for the holidays.
"This is my way of letting them know they are not forgotten and that we are thinking about them," March said.
Dawn Galia, executive director of Center Place, said the Cards for the Troops is a heartfelt gathering in which guests decorate cards that are sent to deployed service members.
The soldiers are then able to write a holiday wish to their loved ones on the cards and give them something to hold on to and keep close to their hearts.
As volunteers cut, pasted and glued 2,500 cards Saturday, they shared their stories about family members' past and current deployments.
Others learned about the struggles military families are going through and the strength it takes to patiently wait until the return of their loved one.
"My daughter's best friend, who is considered part of the family, is currently deployed, and we think about her every day," Galia said.
Krystel Knowles can be reached at [email protected]