Show Canadian veterans some love this Valentine’s Day by creating a hand-made, from-the-heart Valentine as part of Veterans Affairs Canada’s (VAC) initiative Valentines for Vets.
“I think it’s a wonderful initiative, just to reach out the veterans. It’s a way to show them we value them, we value their service, and that we’re still thinking of them. It’s such a positive, feel-good campaign,” said Kathy Arbing, Manager of Commemoration and Distribution Unit of VAC.
Though the initiative is now under the directive of VAC, it originated in 1989 by newspaper columnist Ann Landers. Landers encouraged her readers to create special valentines for veterans in facilities in the United States and Canada. She wrote a column every year around February 14th to encourage participation.
In 1996, VAC became involved with the program and has overseen it ever since.
It is administered today through the head office of the Commemoration and Distribution office located in PEI. The prep works begins weeks prior, as Arbing and her team reach out to spread the word to schools and organizations. Once the valentines start pouring in, they must then sort them and filter them to ensure they contain a positive message.
“When I see the thousands of cards that pour in and these sweet little messages from the kids and their hand-drawn pictures, they take such effort to it, it’s such a positive program. I’m lucky to be a part of it,” noted Arbing.
Then Arbing and her team assemble packets distributed to over one thousand long-term care facilities across the country that are home to veterans. Arbing tries to ensure the packages are sent out in time for Valentine’s Day and in time for facilities to organize small events, if they wish. This year the packages will be sent to 1,452 facilities and just over six thousand veterans.
“We have comments back from facilities and even some veterans. It just brightens their day. It’s a way to recognize them again and show their gratitude,” added Arbing.
A special package is also prepared for the Minister of Veterans Affairs so that he can distribute valentines personally to facilities he visits.
All in all, VAC received 17,000 valentines in 2016.
“You should see the warehouse where we collect them. It’s just valentines as far as the eye can see,” said Arbing.
In Arbing’s view, the initiative is also important for the country’s youth.
“It is an opportunity for them [educators] to start the dialogue and share with the youth the accomplishments and their service. It gives them a better understanding. We have Remembrance Day, where it is very known and routine to remember, this is just another opportunity. Another way to start the dialogue with youth,” stated Arbing.
The deadline to send in your Valentines for Vets is Feb. 1. Valentines must be sent to the Head Office of the Commemoration and Distribution Unit. For more information, such as the address visit the VAC website.