More than 1,600 Christmas cards collected for Valley veterans in the hospital

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A movement to show Valley veterans they're appreciated this holiday season exceeded organizer expectations.

"I get choked up just thinking about it," said Denise Baronian. She's the executive director of regional enrollment at Fresno Pacific University, and for the past few weeks, she's been organizing Operation Dear Veteran.

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Baronian asked for Valley residents to send Christmas cards for veterans in the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Veterans Home of California. She originally hoped for 500 cards.

On Monday, she delivered more than 1,600.

"Once the word got out and people caught the vision, we were overwhelmed with cards and we now have more than 1,600 cards that have come in," Baronian said.

Cards were delivered to her home over the past three weeks, dropped off by churches, elementary school students and families who simply wanted to thank our local veterans.

Baronian's passion for helping veterans comes from her family; her father, stepfather and husband are all veterans.

"My husband and I have been married 33 years, and hearing what he endured just pulled on my heartstrings and made me realize what little I knew of the sacrifices," she said.

"As a veteran, it just goes to show what our community is like." said Charles Benninger, medical center director at the VA hospital. "When you're in the hospital, especially during this time of social isolation, a card to let the folks know that they're remembered is a tremendous opportunity and greatly appreciated."

The cards were dropped off on Monday and will be passed out in the coming days. Any extras will be held over for any veterans who are admitted during the holiday season.
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