CCV community sends support to local veterans

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BENNINGTON — Some were simple expressions of appreciation, written in ballpoint pen on unadorned stationery. Others were more elaborate, cards decorated with colorful drawings done in felt-tip marker. All were written with one purpose in mind: to offer encouragement to a stranger.

"It's the easiest way to put some kindness into the world," Amanda Bates, the evening administrative assistant at the Community College of Vermont, said Monday during the college's inaugural More Love Letters writing party. Throughout the midday, students, staff and faculty dropped by CCV's Room 152, working away at long white tables.

More Love Letters was launched in 2011 by Hannah Brencher as a way of coping with her loneliness and depression as a recent college graduate living in New York City. It's since grown to a global organization. Anyone can nominate a loved one who's in difficult circumstances; the global network then gets to work, generating bundles of letters than can number in the hundreds.

The Bennington chapter of the Community of Student Representatives, CCV's student government and leadership body, decided to become part of the movement. They've chosen to write their unsigned letters to the residents of the Bennington Veterans' Home, to let them know that they're remembered and appreciated. Monday's was the first of a series of letter-writing parties this spring at the Bennington academic center.

"It lets me describe some of the gratitude that I have," said Jeannie Mabee, a full-time student from Bennington. "I appreciate any chance to show them how much I appreciate what they sacrificed for us, and to bring some happiness into their lives."

For letter-writers unsure how to begin, Bates had some advice: "'Thank you for your service' is a good way to start," she said. "Then you can say, 'I know that these are very simple words, but I want you to know what they mean to me.'"

Denise McLain, CCV's office manager, is the sister of a Vietnam veteran and the daughter of a Navy veteran of World War II. By writing to the Veterans' Home residents, "I'm getting the joy of knowing that they, for at least one day, know they're not forgotten, that there are people who think of them."

By the end of the day, 20 letters had been collected. The writing party will continue for another ten days or so, after which the letters will be hand-delivered to the Veterans' Home. Members of the public who would like to contribute are invited to drop their letters off at CCV.

The letter writers are givers, but they're receiving something, too. "I get very emotional," Bates said. "You get overwhelmed by the world, that you can't fix it. You can't fix the horrible things that you read about. This brings it back to the ripple in the pond. This is what I can do, and this is going to affect somebody, from me. That's my direct connection to make a difference in the world. That's what I get out of it.

"You take a pen and a piece of paper, and you can literally change a person's life," Bates said. "It's simple, it's heartfelt, and it will connect you to a stranger you'll never meet."

Contact David LaChance at dlachance@benningtonbanner.com.

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