Upstate business woman enlists students to write to wounded vets

11/08/2013 12:00 AM

11/07/2013 7:34 PM

Rather than writing letters to Santa Claus this holiday season, at least 1,300 elementary students from Spartanburg County will send hand-written messages to wounded American veterans.

Mary-Grace Wallace, owner of WritefullyHis LLC, an ecumenical stationery company that gives a portion of its proceeds to purchase school supplies for children in East Africa, is leading a Christmas campaign in partnership with schools in Districts 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7.

Through the program, students will be able to write glad tidings to patients at the Atlanta VA Medical Center on high-quality cards provided by Wallace's company.

Wallace has enlisted U.S. Army Lt. Jeremy Boeh, who serves as director of The Space to Launch at Wofford College's Mungo Center for Professional Excellence, to help with the campaign. She and Boeh visited Anderson Mill Elementary School and Cleveland Academy of Leadership on Wednesday to speak to more than 900 students during assemblies designed to inform the children and get them fired up about the program.

"I am really excited about this campaign," said Wallace, a recent Wofford grad who launched her company while she was still a student. "I really feel that when we talk to the students, they understand it, and they get it."

Wallace said the campaign is being fully funded by Michael S. Brown, a Wofford benefactor and member of her advisory board. She said Brown, who is based out of Atlanta, suggested she reach out to the VA Medical Center there as a way to demonstrate the power of the handwritten note.

Wallace asked students Wednesday to raise their hands and share what it felt like when they received a letter from someone. Responses ranged from "happy" and "excited" to "surprised" and "like a million bucks."

"Now you all will have the opportunity to make someone else feel the same way," Wallace told students.

Boeh, who served two tours of duty in Iraq from 2007-08 in Sadr City and in Kirkuk from 2010-11, appeared before students wearing his service dress blues. He explained how much it meant to him to receive letters from home. He made students promise to have the most fun they've ever had while writing their notes.

"This is great," Boeh said. "It reminds soldiers that people haven't forgotten about the sacrifices they've made. And it helps us to continue to share the stories (of the war) with future generations."

Last week, Wallace opened a pop-up shop at 172 E. Main St. that she will operate until Dec. 31. The owner said regular customers can purchase Christmas campaign cards for $1 and send them to the VA Medical Center in Atlanta or to any veteran they know.

Wallace said she is still finalizing partnerships with other local schools and expects a few hundred more students to join the campaign.

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