Parrish woman already planning ’09 holiday cards for troops

MANATEE — Kari Dalton is already shopping for next Christmas.

“Going store to store looking for bargains,” she said Tuesday.

Not just any bargains, mind you.

Dalton wants Christmas cards.

Lots of Christmas cards.

“About 15,000,” said the 47-year-old Parrish woman.

They’ll be going to our troops overseas as part of, “Letters With Love Inc.” It’s a mission, begun by Dalton and her family, to provide boxes of Christmas and holiday cards, as well as writing material for servicemen and women to send home.

“War situations will make you a become a card and letter writer,” Dalton said. “I’ve gotten letters from men saying, ‘Please keep this up.’ It’s been heartwarming.”

The idea for “Letters With Love Inc.” was born a year ago after Anni Dalton, Kari and Joe Dalton’s middle child, was deployed to Iraq as an Army medic.

During their phone conversations, the daughter talked about things she missed and one of them was the availability of Christmas cards for the military to mail to family and friends.

Understandably, it’s not like soldiers can find a card store in a war zone.

“Maybe there are things they can purchase at the main base, but in my son’s situation, he’s away from the main base and they don’t have that access,” said Tampa’s Tamera Farr, whose son, Jared Bennett, is an MP. “These cards can be sent to those locations and I know it’s become a big thing. I don’t think Kari realized the need. What she’s doing is a wonderful thing.”

Dalton, her husband, her sisters Sandi Boone and Bev Watson, and sister-in-law Kathy Dalton and Bradenton’s First Church of the Nazarene teamed up to send 7,000 to 10,000 cards last year to four bases in Iraq.

They’re planning on reaching out to the troops at five or six bases this year.

“It’s important to them and it’s also important to their families,” she said. “Kids run out to see what they got from daddy.”

So the search for bargains on Christmas cards and donations goes on.

“We’re looking for business owners who are willing to give us cards or sell them at a discount rather than send them back to a warehouse,” Dalton said. “We’re also going to retirement homes, looking for (unused) cards in store bought condition. We’ll take them.”

Dalton can be reached at (941) 730-2425.

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Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055, or write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, Fla. 34206 or email him at Please include a phone number for verification.