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Card Angels of Florida make and send cards to Tampa Bay retirement homes and hospitals

Theresa Calderini formed the group with five people. Now it has hundreds of members who have delivered thousands of cards.
Handmade cards by Theresa Calderini, who formed the Card Angels of Florida six and a half years ago.
Handmade cards by Theresa Calderini, who formed the Card Angels of Florida six and a half years ago. [ Courtesy of Sue Potteiger ]
Published Jun. 11, 2020
Updated Jun. 16, 2020

Theresa Calderini was a patient at Moffitt Cancer Center when she decided to start making cards six and a half years ago.

The mass on her spine wasn’t cancer, but she had it removed at Moffitt. Like all patients, she was doing a lot of waiting around. Being a crafter, she started making cards while she waited.

Other patients took notice. She handed out the cards.

From that experience, Card Angels of Florida was born. Calderini got five or six friends together to make cards to send to cancer hospitals. They featured her designs, which the friends would help color in. Then they would assemble the cards, write encouraging messages and distribute them.

The group started out meeting at Calderini’s house in Valrico. But as word spread, the group got larger.

They moved locations several times before ending up at Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon. The group has grown to hundreds of members.

Not all members have to be artistic, Calderini emphasized.

“You do not have to be a card maker to do this," she said. "If you can slap some tape on a piece of paper or color in an image, I’ll put you to work.”

Three years ago, Calderini lost the use of her legs. Making the cards became a coping mechanism, a way to give back and move forward.

She calls it her “ministry” and said it has kept her going.

“When you help someone else, you feel better about yourself," she said.

When the coronavirus pandemic broke out, the cardmaking group couldn’t meet anymore but kept the effort going through a card drive on the Card Angels of Florida Facebook page. Calderini leaves the cards outside her front door, where they are picked up by “encouragers,” the people who write the messages in them. They sit for five days, then are distributed.

Calderini said that since March, the group has made and distributed 3,500 cards.

The pandemic also caused them to adjust who they sent them to. They teamed up with the “Frontline Ministry” of Bell Shoals Baptist Church, which takes the cards to local hospitals and distributes them to nurses and doctors.

Nursing and retirement homes are other places they have been focusing on. Calderini’s parents are both in a nursing home but can’t have visitors or even see each other due to the pandemic.

Card Angels of Florida member Sue Potteiger lost a cousin to the coronavirus in March. Four days later, the cousin’s husband died. Her aunt, who lives in a nursing home, was notified that her daughter had died through a window.

Potteiger sent cards to all of the family members affected by this tragedy.

“Theresa’s cards were the perfect thing to help encourage our grieving family and to add a spark of joy during such a dark time,” she said.

Calderini said she heard from a woman in a nursing home who had received one of her cards. The woman left her a voicemail that she said she would never delete.

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“I just want to let you know what a blessing it is to receive this card,” the voicemail said.

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