Jefferson Awards: For Her Service To Our Service Members

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It's a night that hundreds of people look forward to every year and that thousands of those deployed depend on.

"Tonight is dedicated to our military men and women and their families," said Mary Sue Sipple, the Founder and Coordinator of Cards for the Troops, an annual event that creates hand-stamped cards of all kinds.

"We do birthday," listed Mary Sue. "We do anniversary. We do get well. We do all occasion. You name it. We do it."

Each card is sent unsigned so that our military members can send them to their loved ones while they're away.

"Email and Skype are great, but you cannot replace the tangibility of a beautifully made handwritten card," said Mary Sue. "You can pick it up when you want to. You can read it over and over again. I've said it many times - you can feel the love that is in that card and that is really therapeutic when you are separated by deployment."

"This year, our oldest son Kevin is also one of those young military members serving in the Middle East and he and many others serving just as he is are anxiously awaiting the arrival of our cards," she added.

When Cards for the Troops started on the Rock Island Arsenal 9 years ago, there were about 60 people who showed up. In all, they made 550 cards.

During the 2016 event, more than 300 people participated and made 11,700 cards.

"It's grown out of proportion and I've helped her as much as I possibly can," said Mary Sue's Friend, Carolyn Griffith.

In total - 57,799 cards have now been mailed overseas and on the sea, including the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower.

However, those numbers don't really matter to Mary Sue. For her, it's not about quantity - it's about quality.

"No card goes out that is not a good card," said Mary Sue's Friend, Mary Thompson. "You can't use a glue stick and construction paper and write 'Happy Birthday' on it and send it. It has to look good. If it doesn't look good, it's not going to go."

"I just tell everybody who comes here - it's all about the troops," added Mary Sue. "It's not about quantity. It's just about the troops and we want to honor them and we want to honor their families."

That's why Mary Sue is being nominated for the Jefferson Award.

"I'm humbled and I'm honored," responded Mary Sue. "I'm just me doing something I really feel in my heart."

For this military wife, mom, and even a cancer survivor - Mary Sue's service is connecting service members with our community and our community with each other.

"It's not about me," she explained. "It's about the troops and when you look around here and you see all the people in this room, it's about them too."

Next year is the 10th Annual Cards for the Troops. It's being held on Tuesday, September 19th, 2017. Reservations open May 1st, 2017.

The Jefferson Awards

It's all about the people who are changing our community. For the third season, WQAD News 8 and Genesis Health System are bringing you eight local nominees of the Jefferson Award. The Jefferson Awards Foundation is a prestigious national recognition system honoring community and public volunteerism in America, or as well call them, "unsung heroes." On the last Tuesday of every month, WQAD News 8 will announce one nominee. Then, in Spring 2017, one of the eight will represent the Quad Cities in Washington, D.C. at the National Jefferson Awards Ceremony.