Now in its third year, the Christmas Card Collective aims to see 10,000 cards filled and delivered to people sleeping in shelters this holiday season. (Contributed photo)

B.C. woman puts call out for 10,000 personal, heartfelt Christmas cards for the homeless

Christmas Card Collective enters into third year of making spirits bright

A North Delta woman is asking anyone with love in their heart this holiday season to share a little of it with members of the homeless community.

This year, for the third time, Erin Schulte is organizing the Christmas Card Collective – an international effort that delivers festive greeting cards, inscribed with friendly messages, to people sleeping in shelters during a time that should be filled with family and fellowship.

Christmas, Schulte said, is a season to spend with the people you love and to reach out to others who may not have anyone in their lives – not simply an opportunity to pile gifts under the tree.

“It’s about mending gaps and bridging distances and bringing family together,” she said.

The project – which aims to deliver 10,000 personal, heartfelt greetings this year – came to life after Schulte spent five years operating a pop-up soup kitchen on 135A Street in Whalley – formerly the site of a large tent city. Each December, she noticed that the people who lived rough along the strip would receive socks and food and other practical gifts from various charitable groups.

“I thought, wouldn’t it be lovely for them to receive cards from the community … to remind them they’re being thought of.”

And so began the Collective.

Started in the Lower Mainland in 2017, Schulte’s effort has now expanded to Alberta and Ontario, and into the U.S. This year, cards will be distributed to local shelters, as well as in Red Deer, Calgary, Toronto, Seattle and as far south as a mission in Los Angeles.

Each evening in the days leading up to Christmas, as people are welcomed into the shelters, they will find on their pillow an envelope containing a card with a personal message hand-written inside.

“One could be from a four-year-old who has coloured and glittered (the paper), the next night (it might be) a gut-wrenching message,” said Schulte, who has taken it upon herself to personally read each missive before sealing it and sending it off for delivery.

In years past, she has provided enough cards for three consecutive nights. This year, her goal is to extend that to five nights.

Knowing the cards are coming creates a real sense of anticipation among the recipients, she said.

In its first year, the project sent out around 2,000 cards; in 2018, it was closer to 5,000. This year, Schulte has set a goal of doubling that figure.

Reading, sealing and bundling so many cards is an admittedly exhausting process that, last year, kept her up some nights until 4 a.m., so this year, Schulte is looking for volunteers to help share the workload.

“Reading these cards is a beautiful thing, if you want to get into the Christmas spirit. Some will make you bawl your eyes out, others will make you laugh (at) what kids will write.”

While she knew she wanted to make the season brighter for people who often have little to celebrate, Schulte found her efforts had an unexpected benefit.

“I didn’t think about the other side of it,” she said.

That “other side,” she explained, is the conversations that the project has sparked among children and their families – discussions about homelessness and the true meaning of Christmas.

It’s an issue that is “so out-of-sight, out-of-mind for kids,” she said.

Schulte hopes the project will help to shift families’ focus away from so-called “wish lists,” which she compares to a grocery shopping list, with parents simply spending money and ticking off items.

“I would like to see the commercial side of Christmas not be so important,” she said.

“The week of Christmas, there’s nothing you can give me that equals the feeling of knowing people are opening up these cards.”

She’s heard that some people carry the cards with them all year round, but one of her most treasured responses is a photo of a man’s hands holding an open card. It was sent to her from the California mission.

This year, the Christmas Card Collective’s reach has extended even farther south.

Word of the project has made it to Brazil, where a teacher read Schulte’s story online and contacted her via email. The woman, named Michelle, explained that her students had filled out cards for a similar project in that country, titled Make it Merry, only to learn they would not be collected and distributed this year.

“Can I send you the cards the students have already written?” Michelle asked Schulte.

Locally, classrooms and sports teams across the Lower Mainland have taken part in past years and, Schulte expects, will do so again this year.

“There’s never been a group (that has participated) that hasn’t wanted to do it again.”

She’s inviting social groups, youth groups or individuals – anyone who wants to get involved – to contact her.

Participants will be asked to fill out the cards and place them inside unsealed envelopes.

It’s important that the messages being delivered are filled with love and kindness, so she won’t pass along any that haven’t been vetted.

Anyone who wishes to get involved in any capacity can email Schulte at erinlauren@hotmail.com, or find her on Facebook (Erin Schulte).

A Facebook page has also been created, called “The Christmas Card Collective.”

Schulte expects to begin collecting the completed cards in the third week of November, and to continue until Dec. 5 or 6, in order to get them to their respective destinations in time for distribution.

“I don’t get to see firsthand how they are received… but the messages I get back are so nice,” she said.

She’s also grateful for the corporate support her efforts have continued to receive.

Blank cards are this year being provided by Aline Greetings, while distribution is once more being provided by VanKam Freightways and Hercules Forwarding.

While her own focus is on the Christmas Card Collective, Schulte noted that the need for fellowship reaches beyond the homeless community.

“A lot of people are alone at Christmastime. There’s a lot people can do – bake cookies and knock on their door,” she said.

“Christmas is not about anything you can possibly buy in a store. It’s about community – bringing family and friends together.

“Bring humanity back – that’s my wish for Christmas this year.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Shawn Decaire does a blessing ceremony for the Hama?Elas Community Kitchen in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Hama?Elas Community Kitchen progress shared

Strategic planning, progress made on various projects also discussed at CRDCEH meeting

Forestry companies in B.C. agree to abide by the cedar protocols based on traditional laws of the First Nation members of the Nanwakolas Council. (Photo courtesy, Nanwakolas Council)
B.C. forestry companies agree to abide by cedar protocols drafted by Indigenous council

Western Forest Products and Interfor Corporation among companies to adapt declaration drafted by Nanwakolas Council

Campbell River city council has given unanimous support to its mayor to continue the fight for the aquaculture industry on our coast. Black Press file photo
Campbell River city council unanimous in support of fish farms

‘I’m certainly not willing to roll over and accept a bad decision,’ says one councilor

(Black Press file photo)
One dead after single-vehicle accident in Campbell River yesterday

‘…we are hoping for a full recovery for both passengers,’ says RCMP

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Dr. Shannon Waters, the medical health officer for the Cowichan Valley Region, is reminding people to stay the course with COVID-19 measures. (File photo)
‘Stay the course’ with COVID measures, Island Health reminds

Limit social activity, wash hands, wear a mask, and isolate if you feel sick

Cowichan Tribes members line up at a drive-up clinic on Wednesday, Jan. 13 to receive the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in the region. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
BCAFN condems racism against Cowichan Tribes after COVID-19 outbreak

“Any one of us could do everything right and still catch the virus”: Regional Chief Terry Teegee.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Nursing staff at West Coast General Hospital celebrate the announcement of a $6.25-million expansion of the emergency department that will start in March 2021. (File photo)
B.C. health ministry commits $6.25M to hospital expansion in Port Alberni

Plans for larger emergency department have been on hold since 2015

Most Read