On November 2, 2013 I was sitting in our very cramped travel trailer (my home had been destroyed three weeks earlier by a vehicle) writing a speech for Veterans Day. While I was writing, I came to the realization that I really didn’t have it all that bad. I had a roof over my head, clean water, food and my wife and family were all safe. In comparison, our service members are out their risking life and limb for our country. They were not as fortunate as I was, in my cramped travel trailer. They didn’t have a choice of kissing their children to sleep or worrying about drinking decaf or regular coffee. There’s was life or death, and I didn’t have it so bad. 

I had to do something. I knew that our community would be behind me because of its strength of character. I found the Red Cross program “Holiday Mail for Heroes” and announced online that I wanted our community to do it. I set a goal of 1000 holiday cards. I even put together a Facebook page and called it “Hollister Gives Back”, because giving back is what I think we needed and wanted to do. 

Almost five weeks later, after numerous coffees and card signings at Mars Hill, after many of our local schools placed collection barrels on their campuses and after community members and businesses came together in the holiday spirit to support this program, I found myself driving to the UPS Store on McCray meeting with the owner Steve Nami with my truck bed entirely full of boxes of signed holiday cards (about 165 pounds of cards). Steve signed on early telling me that he would ship our cards through UPS for free as a way of supporting Hollister Gives Back. I just dropped off over 21,000 signed holiday cards to Steve.

I want to thank the many volunteers, businesses, schools and of course my own family for the support and help with this project. This is the first of many for Hollister Gives Back.

Our next project will be “Valentines for Heroes” where we intended to collect addresses from local area parents, relatives, friends, family members of active duty service members both in-country and abroad. We would like then to collect locally produced items (along with regular care package essentials) with Valentines and send them to the provided addresses. I will be announcing the first phase of collecting addresses in the coming days. 

-Chief Westrick