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Humble, Heartfelt Letters for the Troops

Posted: January 27, 2008 5:05 a.m.
Updated: March 29, 2008 2:01 a.m.
Surrounded by a sea of stickers, stamps and multicolored sheets of construction paper, 8-year-old Luis Guerrero chose a broad white sheet for his third Valentine's Day card Saturday.

This one was going to be an American flag.
Sitting near him at the Newhall Community Center table, 7-year-old Kylie Crawford glued a tiny Jimmy Neutron valentine next to her message inside a big piece of pink construction paper.
The messages of care these youngsters constructed so seriously will go to American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
For the past couple of weeks, youngsters from local elementary schools and a couple of high schools have been constructing the cards, said Suzon Gerstel, co-founder and president of Prayer Angels for the Military.
The local nonprofit military support group exists to ensure that armed forces serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are remembered with cards, care packages and prayer.
Within the next couple of weeks, Gerstel said, Prayer Angels will mail about 2,000 cards, along with care packages that include snacks and small necessities, to the troops.
Usually, it takes nearly a month for the cards to make it to the troops.
Gerstel and Barbie Aston, co-founder of Prayer Angels, said the packages are sent to specific soldiers, including those from the Santa Clarita Valley, and also to entire units.
Both women understand the need to support the troops. Gerstel's son is currently serving in the Army while Aston's son recently finished his tour of duty with the Marines.
Although Prayer Angels has a long list of troops to send to, but Aston said the group welcomes anyone from the community who wants to add names to the list.
Prayer Angels make cards throughout the year for just about all holidays. Next on the list is Easter; the group hopes to start preparations soon.
Sending cards for Easter takes more effort, Gerstel and Aston said, because the group tries to include blank Mother's Day and Father's Day cards for the troops to send back to their families.
One hindrance to Prayer Angels' efforts is the high cost of sending the cards and packages. One box takes $8.95 in postage. In total, Aston said, it costs $30 to $40 to cover all the costs for mailing accessories and shipping.
The two said they depend on donations from the community to pay for the shipping costs as well as the money needed to buy supplies for the cards. Prayer Angels also accepts supplies for the care packages.
Ultimately, Gerstel and Aston said the cards become a reflection of the community's support for the troops.
"It's not just from Prayer Angels; it's from the community," Gerstel said.
To find out more about Prayer Angels for the Military, visit


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