Jeremy McIntire, vice president of Stow City Council, Iraq War Veteran and Purple Heart recipient, is launching a program to collect valentines for troops deployed overseas. In light of recent troop deployments to the Middle East, Jeremy and his wife Claire were reminded of their experience when Jeremy deployed to Iraq in 2007.

"Receiving greetings from people back home is very important for our service members," he said. "Troops can often find themselves going days even weeks without hearing from a loved one. There is no better feeling than coming back from a mission and finding that you received mail."

Valentines are being collected at Stow City Hall from now until Jan. 20. McIntire will also host a valentine’s making session during his monthly office hours this Saturday, Jan. 11 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the community room at the Stow Safety Center, located at 3800 Darrow Road in Stow.

"The response from the community has been amazing," said Claire McIntire. "It’s wonderful to see people come together to support our troops."

Supporters are asked to please adhere to the following guidelines when creating valentines:

- Send a handwritten letter, note or handmade card. Soldiers feel extra special when they receive handmade, individually created valentines. Envelopes are not required.

- Keep your cards to a size of 8 1/2" x 11" or under for ease in shipping and distribution.

- Cards cannot include glitter, food or candy, but there are still many ways to personalize a handmade card. Write a message on them and say, "Thank You", tell them about yourself and wish them a Happy Valentine Day. The troops are away from their loved ones and friends, so they really want to know that people back home appreciate them. Please feel free to share this with everyone you know. The service men and women appreciate receiving the cards each year.

- Military personnel love to communicate with you. You can include your school, church or organization name, address and/or email contact on each card so recipients can write back. Cards from children/students must include a first name only. If you do not receive a reply from a Service Member, do not be discouraged. Remember: The troops are busy.

- Photos of the sender, sender's family, church, or classroom participants can add a personal touch to your card.

- Keep your messages positive. Start with a salutation, such as "Dear Hero" or "Dear Brave One." All cards will be screened.

Do not put individual valentines in sealed envelopes. Bundle cards and send in a single large envelope or box containing all of the valentines.

For pickup from schools, churches, businesses and retirement homes in Stow, contact Councilman Jeremy McIntire at 330-352-0487 or mcintireforstow@gmail.com; or Claire McIntire at 330-618-7586 or claireamcintire@gmail.com and they will pick up the valentines.

For residents who wish to make and send valentine cards, they may be dropped off through Jan. 20; there will be a drop box located at the front desk in the atrium of:Stow City Hall, 3760 Darrow Road, Stow, Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. All valentines must be completed and received by Jan. 20.

On its website, the United States Post Office explains the importance of military mail:

"More than 1.4 million Americans serve in the military, with about 200,000 of those troops serving overseas. Members of the armed forces can feel isolated while deployed, often in dangerous conditions. The military discovered long ago that mail boosts the morale of troops serving in other parts of the world, so it has made military mail a high priority. Military mail provides members of the armed forces with a vital link to their communities. Mail call is the moment when the frontline and home front connect."

"We cannot think of a better holiday to let someone know you are thinking of them than Valentine’s Day," said Councilman McIntire. "Please join Claire and I to help bring smiles to the brave men and women serving overseas by sending them a valentine."