Greeting card makers at Brentwood senior center raise thousands in eight years

Greeting card makers at Brentwood senior center raise thousands in eight years

Card Maker Joyce Patton adds some details to a card. // Photo Matt Blois


A group of volunteer card makers at the FiftyForward Martin Center in Brentwood is still raising money for the for the senior center eight years after making its first card.

The Card Crusaders make greeting cards at the FiftyForward Martin Center in Brentwood./ / Photo Matt Blois

The group, called the Card Crusaders, originally formed to help buy a bus for the center, and since then has raised money for other projects.

The crusaders paid for dozens of new upholstered chairs in the lobby and a big screen television. They sold enough cards to repave the senior center’s parking lot and buy a new sound system.

This month the group is preparing for an art show at the Martin Center on October 19 and 20. The show is one of the best opportunities for the group to sell cards.

Card Crusader Marilyn Nevens said the quality of the cards has improved dramatically since the group first started eight years ago. The designs are more complex and the group has created dozens of new templates.

“They were so basic when we started. I can’t be begin to tell you,” Nevens said. “I have some at home we made when we first started. They keep getting better as we do them. We work together on everything.”

A finished card. // Photo Matt Blois

The group meets twice a week in a room dedicated to the project at the Martin Center. The room is filled with clear plastic containers for card materials. A basket at the front of the room holds hundreds of finished cards.

Everything in the room is carefully labeled. A white board tells the card makers which designs are running low. Nevens called the room a mess, but nothing was out of place during a card making session on a rainy day last week. She said every card that leaves the room has to be perfect.

About five women were working on cards, but Nevens said there are usually 12 to 15 people who volunteer. 

It’s detailed work. A machine cuts out a silhouette from a hard backed piece of paper. Then volunteers fold strips of paper to fill the hole, following a complicated pattern. They tape the folded paper to the card and seal the back to hide their work. Other volunteers add detailed garnishes — tiny paper snowflakes or illustrations.

The result is a three-dimensional work of art.

“You have to have an eye for picking out colors to do some of this,” Nevens said. “There’s hidden talent that we didn’t even know about.”

Nevens estimated that it takes about an hour to make a single card, although some designs can go faster. They usually work for about 12 hours a week.

A work in progress. // Photo Matt Blois

Judy Chilton taught a class on the iris paper folding technique the group uses, and she still helps make cards today.

“It was originally going to be one hour just for fun,” card maker Dorothy Swanner said. “Eight years later we’re still sitting here.”

Stores at the Nashville Airport and the Zoos in Nashville and Chattanooga sell the cards. They also get special orders from companies that want their logo on a card.

The months leading up to Christmas are usually the biggest time of the year, and the group is trying to build up a good inventory for the holiday season.

Nevens said that the group doesn’t have any plans to slow down. As long as people keep buying the cards the Card Crusaders will keep making them.

The Crusaders will have some of their cards for sale at an art show at the Martin Center featuring artists Michael Damico and John Fisher later this month.

The opening reception is at the Martin Center on October 19 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. There will be an art show and sale at the center on October 20 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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