Writing a holiday card to a friend or loved one says you care. Last week, inside The Ministry café in Northwest Washington, people penned notes of kindness to strangers who don’t often get Christmas cards: the homeless.
“A little spark of happiness to know that somebody out there is thinking about them,” says Nick Silvestri, who was one of the café’s patrons who took the time and care to write a card.
The person behind this project is Reed Sandridge. He runs Second Story Cards.
“We make greetings cards, beautiful cards, funny cards just like any other place it’s just that our card makers are folks who have experienced homelessness,” says Sandridge.
Sandridge also gives back, allotting 15 percent of card sales to the designer and another 10 percent to a charity of their choice.
Sandridge adds, “So we’ve been collecting cards for about a month.”
His idea here this holiday season was to have some of his card makers and DC residents pen cards for people who don’t have a permanent home. He’s spending Christmas week delivering nearly 1000 cards to shelters throughout the region. One such center that passed out cards was A-SPAN in Arlington.
“It’s a time when you are not surrounded by your family it’s easy to start feeling alone. And if we could change that, that would just be very special in all the lives of folks we’re hopefully going to touch.”
One of his card makers is Eric Thompson-Bey, who was homeless for 19 years.
“I’ve been in the shelter many Christmas. No decorations. No Merry Christmas. None of that. I know what they are going through,” says Thompson-Bey.
Thompson-Bey decided that he wanted to write a message of hope to someone who is homeless on one of the cards he designed.
Thompson-Bey, reading from the card he penned, says, “Merry Christmas. I know what you are going through. I was homeless for 19 years. God has a plan for you. Keep your head high and remember you are blessed. Eric Thompson-Bey. Homeless for 19 years.”
That card was delivered Christmas Eve to Joe Simmons, who is staying at A-SPAN, a homeless services center in Arlington, Virginia.
Simmons, who says he lost everything after a stint in prison, told us after reading Eric’s card that he felt emotionally rejuvenated.
“It makes me feel like I’m not the only one in this predicament. Makes me feel like I have hope,” says Simmons.
Nick Silvestri wrote to Craig Thompson, “I wish you warmth and shelter in the upcoming Christmas season. I hope you receive the help and have the hope to get through the winter. I know that this can be one of the hardest times of the year and know that there are people that want to help and are thinking about you. And that can make all the difference. Warmest wishes Nick Silvestri.”
Thompson, who said he became homeless due to a gambling addiction, responded after reading the card, “It recognizes me in some sort of a human capacity and not as a number or digit or a nameless face.”
Jennifer Berger’s card says, “Hello Friend. Please know that I see you and you are important to me. We are not so different. Taking it one day at a time. I wish you warmth and safety and joy in the new year. xoxo, Jennifer.”
Berger’s card went to Mariana Alas, a trans woman who worked for a time on the streets to survive after family cast her aside during her transition.
Alas responded after reading her card for the first time, “Thank you. It’s a lot. There are lot of emotions. It’s not what has been written. It’s what’s been thought about it.”
Damascus Romocelly, who has been homeless for about a decade, can’t remember the last time that words meant so much to him.
“It gives me something to smile about that this person I never met would write this and I’ve been homeless 10 years off and on. So, very touching,” says Romocelly.
Sometimes all we need on the darkest of days is a candle to light our way and to know we are not alone.
Romocelly adds, “I’m my own family, but I see I have somebody else that cares and that matters most to me.”
If you would like more information on A-SPAN and its mission head here: https://www.a-span.org/
If you would like more information on Second Story Cards head here: https://www.secondstorycards.com/