Maria Shackles—branch manager of the Mary Rose Kobetich Library—started Valentines for Vets in January of 2010. All eight Tacoma library branches are actively participating in the event. Tacomans are encouraged to take advantage of the drop-in business hours (12 pm to 8 pm Tuesday/Wednesday, 10 am to 6 pm Thursday-Saturday, closed Sunday/Monday).
Shackles brought the idea of Valentines for Vets from her previous job in an Illinois library, where the program was a big success. “I worked in another program in Illinois and it was really popular,” said Shackles, “I wanted to create it here, especially since we [Tacoma] have such a strong military community here.”
The event is free of charge, “Anyone can stop into a local Tacoma library, we have supplies—stickers, glitter, card—available,” said Shackles, “people can actually drop off their own completed valentines at a drop box located in each branch.”
Community groups like the Boy Scouts, the Girls Scouts, and the YMCA are asked and invited to participate in Valentines for Vets. “I would love to see it [Valentines for Vets] be more of a city-wide program. I would also like to see it be extended to active duty, that would be great too,” said Shackles.
The program currently doesn’t have a contact to send valentines to active duty members, but hopes to gain more contacts.
In years past, Shackles said that the organization has received approximately 1,000 valentines a year. Out of that 1,000, 100-300 valentines are reviewed, separated, and sent to veteran retirement homes and hospitals in Seattle, American Lake (Lakewood), and Spokane. The event started on Jan. 2nd and will end on the 23rd of this month.
After the valentines are sent, the hospitals and retirement homes are responsible for the distribution of the valentines to their residents. The valentines are typically handed out to individual residents or they are put out for display in common eatingareas as decorations for all residents to see.
“It is important because Valentine’s Day is about thinking of people we love,” said Shackles, “because our program focuses on the elderly, I think it is good to remind them that someone is thinking about them and that as a city we appreciate their sacrifice for this country.”
Shackles wants local K-12 schools and colleges to participate in the program, and encourages them to hand deliver the valentines to veterans. She would like to see more veteran awareness on Valentine’s Day.
“I would say be sure to thank a veteran during Valentine’s Day. Think of the people in your life you love, not all people have that.”
For more information contact the Tacoma Public Library at (253) 292-2001, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The closest library to the UWT campus is at: 1102 Tacoma Ave S. 11th.