PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) – Their cards are decorated with scenes of the holidays and words of appreciation.
"I hope you can come back home. In hard times, God will lead you home to your family," one student wrote on his card.
Students at Cherokee Elementary School, along with every school in the Pascagoula School District, are creating homemade Christmas cards for soldiers all over the world.
"Oh, that's cute! I bet that one will make them happy though when they see it," Holley Cunningham said as she read another card.
Holley is spear heading this huge project.
"I know that sometimes they don't have family members that will send packages or nice things like that, so I'm hoping that when they open the cards, that this will bring a bit of joy to their holiday," she said.
Bringing joy to others has always been Holley's birthday wish. Every year, Holley dedicates her birthday on December 8 to a local cause or organization. On her ninth birthday, Holley collected items for the homeless and helped out at a soup kitchen.
The Resurrection High senior will turn 18 next month, and this will be her longest and last birthday project.
"Because this is my last birthday project to do here before I go off to college, so I decided to do four projects," said Holley.
The other three projects are collecting more items for the homeless, refurbishing the pool room at Jackson County Exceptional School, and putting on a Christmas program for seniors. Holley's generous heart has touched thousands of lives, not just on her birthday.
"I've never felt like I needed another present or anything like that," said Holley. "I think if I can make an impact on the world, then that's way better than me getting some gift."
And the gift she leaves behind is her legacy of service.
"I'm hoping others will pick up on community service. It's so great," said Holley. "I'm really glad I did it. When I look back, I see that maybe I didn't completely change the world. But I think I made an impact in it."
Holley expects to collect around 2,500 cards from the Pascagoula School District. The public can also sign cards at "Downtown for the Holidays" in Pascagoula on December 3 from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM. There's another signing event at Jerry Lee's Grocery in Pascagoula and Singing River Mall in Gautier on December 4 from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM.
If you can't make it to those events, you can also send a card on your own. Just drop your holiday greeting in the mail before December 10th to the address below:
Holiday Mail for Heroes
P.O. Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456