World War II veteran continues to serve with unique ‘card ministry’

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HOLLAND, Mich., -- Ruth Gladden sends out a lot of mail. For more than a decade, she has run a card ministry that reaches hundreds of people each year.

The 92-year-old is a Navy veteran who served during World War II. She continues to serve her community with her efforts, despite suffering from macular degeneration and being legally blind.

With the help of a special machine she calls her "seeing eye" that magnifies images, she personally picks and addresses the cards for various occasions. The recipients are members of Christ Our Saviour Lutheran Church in Holland, which Gladden helped begin with her late husband more than 20 years ago.

"I wanted to do something to help my church because I couldn't get up and go anymore," Gladden told FOX 17. "I get [the cards] as cheap as I can, but of course, the stamps aren't cheap."

Gladden estimates she spent about $400 dollars in postage last year. She's expanded her efforts to include stickers in children's card, and a balloon in ever birthday card, regardless of age. She said the cost doesn't compare to the joy she gets from sending the mail and receiving special cards and letters in return.

"I enjoy doing it, " she explained. "Makes you feel warm inside. I feel like I'm doing something."

Another founding member of the church, Bonnie Crockford, supplies Gladden with a list of names and dates to keep the card ministry going.

"She has a passion for it," Crockford told FOX 17 News. "They lighten your day, they make you feel better. You know that someone else is thinking about you...It's not just a card. There's always something in her handwriting, personalized to you."

The cards may be a small gesture, but in a time when receiving such personal mail is becoming scarce, they are appreciated.

"She's doing for people that she's never met in some cases, and she's treating them just like us, like family," said Gladden's grandson Chris Udell. "Being a veteran and helping people is just part who she is and we love her dearly for it."

As the January Pay it Forward Person of the Month, Gladden will receive a $500 dollar check, courtesy of Independent Bank.

If you'd like to send Ruth stamps or a card, mail can be addressed to:

American House Of Holland, Attn. Valerie, 11833 James Street, Holland, MI 49424

Know someone who FOX 17 should feature as our next Pay it Forward Person of the Month? Nominate them here.

Meet Dave White, our December Pay it Forward Person of the Month.

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