'Operation Valentine's Day' underway for troops, first responders, healthcare workers

Staff report
Stow Sentry
More than 12,000 valentines were collected during last year's Operation Valentine's Day and were distributed to troops serving overseas.
Stow City Councilman Jeremy McIntire shows the collection box for valentines as part of the second annual Operation Valentine's Day. McIntire and his wife Claire are expanding the program to include troops serving overseas as well as the men and women responding to the COVID-19 pandemic including first responders and healthcare professionals.

Jeremy McIntire, vice president of Stow City Council and an Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart recipient, is launching a program to collect valentines for troops deployed overseas. Considering the current pandemic, McIntire and his wife Claire are expanding Operation Valentine’s Day "to the brave men and women responding to the COVID-19 pandemic including our first responders and healthcare professionals."

“Receiving greetings from people back home is very important for our service members,” said Jeremy McIntire. “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 through Jan. 25. When this campaign was launched in 2020, it was anticipated to receive 1,000 – 2,000 valentines; to the McIntires' surprise, the campaign collected over 12,000 valentines for the troops.

According to the couple, "With a new year upon us, Operation Valentine’s Day has set a goal of collecting 20,000 Valentines."

“We were so grateful for the huge outpouring of support that we received when we launched this campaign in 2020,” said Claire McIntire. “Seeing how communities have come together during these unprecedented times, we want our first responders and healthcare professionals who are sacrificing so much right here at home know that we are thinking of them and thank them for keeping us safe.”

Last year, at the launch of the campaign, Councilman McIntire hosted a valentine making session. Residents from surrounding communities as far away as North Olmsted came to make or deliver valentines, including Ohio Secretary of State and veteran Frank LaRose and his family.

Week two of last year's inaugural Operation Valentine’s Day began to see a significant increase in support of the mission. Valentines poured in from every corner of Ohio, as well as other states including Arkansas, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C.

“Supporters called saying what a wonderful idea this was and how happy they were to support our mission,” said Claire McIntire. “By Jan. 15 we had already collected over 5,000 valentines.”

The McIntires ask supporters to adhere to the following guidelines when creating valentines:

  • Send a handwritten letter, note or handmade card.  "Everyone feels extra special when they receive handmade, individually created valentines." Envelopes are not required.
  • Keep cards to a size of 8 1/2 inches x 11 inches 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’s Day. "Troops, first responders, doctors and nurses spend a lot of time away from their loved ones and friends, so let them know you appreciate them. Please feel free to share this with everyone you know."
  • Military personnel like to communicate with people. 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: our troops are busy."
  •  Photos of the sender, sender's family, church, or classroom participants can add a personal touch to your card.
  •  Keep messages positive.  Start with a salutation, such as "Dear Hero" or "Dear Brave One." All cards will be screened.
  • Individual valentines should not be placed in sealed envelopes.  Bundle cards and place them in a single large envelope or box containing all the valentines.

Schools, churches, businesses and retirement homes in Stow should contact Jeremy  McIntire at 330-352-0487 or mcintireforstow@gmail.com; or Claire McIntire at 330-618-7586 or claireamcintire@gmail.com to arrange for pickup of the valentines.

For residents who wish to make and send valentine cards, they may be dropped off through Jan. 25 in a drop box located at Stow City Hall, 3760 Darrow Road, Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

A second dropbox will be located at Councilman McIntire’s home at 1904 Baker Lane, Stow.

All valentines must be completed and received by Jan. 25.