Three cheers to All Our Volunteers on MLK Jr. Day of Service!

Despite the single-digit temperatures and recent big snow, more than 100 people gathered together on Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service at Bend Church-United Methodist to make heartfelt Valentine’s Day cards for United States veterans. The room was packed with folks of all ages who brought their crafting spirit and a true appreciation for community connection, centered around honoring MLK Jr. and veterans alike.

This annual service project—Valentine’s for Veterans—is open to the public and takes place on this national holiday every year. It provides community members and kids from our special MLK Jr.-themed No School Day Camp a chance to gather and make hundreds of cards, which are delivered to the regional veterans hospital on Valentine’s Day.

People signed up through Connect Central Oregon, an organization that plays a pivotal role in facilitating the massive region-wide volunteer opportunities offered by many nonprofits throughout our Central Oregon region. As some outdoor volunteer events were unfortunately canceled due to weather, a larger-than-usual group of folks turned to our event as a way to give back and make a difference in the warmth of the indoors. It was ahh-ma-zing to see so many people crafting and connecting!

Also unique to this year’s event, Camp Fire hosted a guest speaker, U.S. Veteran Pam Mindt, who graciously talked to the packed room about her experiences in combat, some of the struggles veterans face both while serving and once returning home, and the deep appreciation they feel when honored by something as sweet, yet simple as a Valentine’s Day card. During the speech, one after another, kids came up and handed Mindt their newly made cards (and even a little candy!), a beautiful gesture of kindness in action witnessed by everyone in the room. Other veterans were also in attendance, as was a large crew of volunteers from Heart of Oregon Corps’ YouthBuild program, who joined other community members in not just making cards but helping set up for the event. Every hand and heart was so appreciated!

If you missed this year’s event, consider joining us next year, rain or shine—or snow! It’s a true Camp Fire experience that nurtures community engagement and makes an impact, both for those who create the cards and, on Valentine’s Day, those who receive them.